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EU to Overturn Meta’s Subscription Model

The EU Commission has deemed the subscription model for Meta’s services unacceptable. According to the Brussels authority’s announcement on July 1, 2024, Facebook and Instagram users are not provided with a less personalized but equivalent version of the social networks if they reject the subscription. This violates the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Meta introduced a paid, ad-free service in November 2023, which currently costs 9.99 euros when purchased on and 12.99 euros via the app.

Consumer and data protection advocates are critical of the offer. “Facebook doesn’t change its data collection practices,” said Alexander Roßnagel, the data protection officer of Hesse. Even if users pay 9.99 euros, extensive user data is still being collected. The Consumer Protection Center of North Rhine-Westphalia has already filed two lawsuits against the subscription model.

Potential High Fines

The EU Commission’s action significantly increases pressure on Meta. The company could face fines of up to ten percent of its global annual revenue if it violates the DMA. In repeated cases, fines could reach up to 20 percent.

According to Article 5 of the DMA, a so-called gatekeeper cannot combine personal data from different platforms without user consent. Users must be offered access to a less personalized but equivalent alternative if they decline. “Gatekeepers cannot make the use of the service or specific functions conditional on user consent,” the statement said.

Meta can now challenge the preliminary assessment. The EU Commission aims to make a final decision by the end of March 2025.

The subscription model was introduced in response to a ruling by data protection authorities. At the beginning of 2023, the Irish Data Protection Commission fined Meta 390 million euros for violating data protection regulations. Meta was prohibited from using the contractual legal basis to serve personalized ads based on tracked user activities. The ruling marked the end of a years-long dispute between data protection activists, European data protection authorities, the Irish Data Protection Commission, and Meta.