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Facebook users duped over data, says French consumer association

It has now joined a Europe-wide investigation into Meta's practices

Meta has been offering a paid subscription to users who refuse to share their personal data Pic: Meta has been offering a paid subscription to users who refuse to share their personal data

A French consumer association has denounced “deceptive commercial practices” used by Meta, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, pointing in particular to the paid subscription offered to users who decline to share their personal data.

UFC-Que Choisir announced on Thursday (November 30) that it is joining the complaint of the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) lodged with the European Commission and the network of consumer protection authorities.

The complaint by BEUC aims to initiate an EU-wide investigation into Meta's practices, and to obtain a binding decision from the relevant consumer protection authorities.

UFC-Que Choisir has also referred the matter to the government body in charge of competition and consumer rights in France and invited it to investigate the social media conglomerate.

Arguments behind the complaints

For the past few weeks, Meta has been offering Facebook and Instagram users the option of taking a paid subscription if they wish to opt out of the processing of their personal data. Without this subscription, the user is subject to targeted advertising. 

For Meta this approach was intended to comply with the obligation to collect users’ consent before collecting their personal data. However UFC-Que Chosiri has said "Meta is turning its legal obligation to ask for consent into a commercial offer.”

The association said that Meta “misleads consumers” by offering them the choice between a paid subscription and free use of the application, arguing that users do not actually get to use social networks for free, but rather they are paying in personal data instead of euros.

With their complaint, UFC-Que choisir intends to obtain better information for consumers and above all to give them more time to think before opting for a paid offer or giving up their privacy on these so-called ‘free’ services.

Europe-wide investigation 

In total, BEUC's collective action was joined by 19 consumer protection associations. 

UFC-Que Choisir is the French representative of the complaint, but there are also associations from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Luxembourg.

This action aims to initiate a Europe-wide investigation into Meta's practices, and to obtain a binding decision from the relevant consumer protection authorities.

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