Ad-free Facebook might get way cheaper to appease EU regulators

Meta says it’s offered to reduce the price of its ad-free subscription for Instagram and Facebook in Europe to address regulatory concerns, Reuters reports. Speaking in a hearing with the European Commission, Meta lawyer Tim Lamb said the company has “offered to drop the price from €9.99 to €5.99 for a single account and €4 for any additional accounts” in its discussion with privacy regulators in an attempt to “get to a steady state.”

Lamb said €5.99 is “by far the lowest end of the range that any reasonable person should be paying for services of this quality” and hoped that the “regulatory uncertainty” will “settle down quickly.” It reportedly made the offer to cut its prices to data protection authorities earlier this year.

But the paid tier was quickly the subject of complaints from consumer groups, who’ve attacked the measure as a “pay-or-consent” smokescreen. “Meta’s offer to consumers is smoke and mirrors to cover up what is, at its core, the same old hoovering up of all kinds of sensitive information about people’s lives which it then monetises through its invasive advertising model,” the European Consumer Organisation’s (BEUC) deputy director general, Ursula Pachl, said in a statement in February.

Eight consumer groups from the BEUC’s network filed complaints with their respective national data protection authorities accusing Meta of not complying with the GDPR. The group said Meta doesn’t have a “valid legal basis” to justify its data collection and that “the choice it imposes on its users can not lead to their freely given and informed consent.”

It’s unclear whether simply lowering the price of this monthly subscription will address these privacy concerns. Although privacy rights group NOYB attacked the cost of the subscription for being “way out of proportion” to the value Meta gets from tracking EU users, other groups have more structural complaints with the way the subscription has been implemented. BEUC, which serves as an umbrella group of 45 consumer organizations, has called for Meta to give consumers more time to think about their choice, for example, and to be more transparent about which data is collected under the paid option.

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By asm3a