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EU Antitrust Regulators Take Aim at Meta’s Subscription Model for Facebook and Instagram

The Commission argues that Meta’s model presents users with a “pay or consent” dilemma.


The European Union’s antitrust watchdog, the European Commission, has accused Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, of potentially violating the bloc’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA). The issue centers around Meta’s recently launched subscription model in Europe, which offers users an ad-free experience for a fee.

The Commission argues that Meta’s model presents users with a “pay or consent” dilemma. This means users must either pay to avoid targeted advertising altogether or agree to have their data tracked for personalized ads.

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“In the Commission’s preliminary view, this binary choice forces users to consent to the combination of their personal data and fails to provide them a less personalized but equivalent version of Meta’s social networks,” stated the Commission in a press release.

The potential consequences for Meta are significant. Under the DMA, companies deemed to be “gatekeepers” – those with a dominant market position – can face fines of up to 10% of their global annual revenue for non-compliance with the Act’s regulations. Repeat offenses can double the fine to a staggering 20%. Based on Meta’s 2023 revenue figures, this could translate to a fine exceeding $13 billion.

The crux of the EU’s complaint lies in Meta’s failure to offer a privacy-conscious alternative. The Commission emphasizes the importance of user control over data and the need for a less data-intensive option alongside personalized advertising.

“Our investigation aims to ensure contestability in markets where gatekeepers like Meta have been accumulating personal data of millions of EU citizens over many years,” said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy. “We want to empower citizens to be able to take control over their own data and choose a less personalized ads experience.”

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the DMA’s objective of user empowerment and fostering competition. “The DMA is there to give back to the users the power to decide how their data is used and ensure innovative companies can compete on equal footing with tech giants on data access,” he stated.

Meta, however, maintains that their subscription model adheres to the DMA and the rulings of the European Court. “Subscription for no ads follows the direction of the highest court in Europe and complies with the DMA,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to further constructive dialogue with the European Commission to bring this investigation to a close.”

This clash between the EU and Meta signifies a growing concern over the power and practices of Big Tech companies. The DMA represents a significant shift in the regulatory landscape, aiming to curb the dominance of tech giants and empower users with greater control over their data. As the investigation progresses, it will be interesting to see how Meta responds and whether the company will adjust its subscription model to comply with the DMA’s regulations.



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