Meta's recently launched ad-free subscription service in Europe is facing a major challenge after digital rights group NOYB (None Of Your Business) filed a complaint with an Austrian regulator.
According to Reuters, the Vienna-based advocacy group argues that the service, which charges users for enhanced privacy, contradicts the principle of free consent mandated by EU law.
NOYB data protection lawyer Felix Mikolasch stated that EU law mandates genuine, free-willed consent from users. "Contrary to this law, Meta charges a 'privacy fee' of up to €250 per year if anyone dares to exercise their fundamental right to data protection," he added.
The complaint was then made with the Austrian Data Protection Authority, challenging both Meta's hefty fees for the right to privacy and approach to consent.
Additionally, the group expressed concern over the potential precedent set by Meta, suggesting that if the company succeeds, other competitors may adopt similar practices.
"Not only is the cost unacceptable, but industry numbers suggest that only 3% of people want to be tracked – while more than 99% don't exercise their choice when faced with a 'privacy fee'," the group said in a statement.
In response to the accusations, Meta defended its subscription offering by emphasizing the option to enjoy an ad-free experience while complying with European regulations.
A Meta spokesperson also pointed out that the pricing structure aligns with other subscription services in Europe, such as Netflix, YouTube Premium, and Spotify.
NOYB's complaint is expected to be forwarded to the Irish data protection watchdog, which oversees Meta due to the company's European headquarters being located in Ireland.
Meta's Paid Sub Campaign Could Backfire
In October, Meta introduced the paid, ad-free subscription service for Facebook and Instagram, pricing it at €9.99 monthly for web users and €12.99 for iOS and Android users.
The company justified this move as a way to comply with EU regulations, asserting that a subscription model aligns with users' consent for an ad-supported platform.
As ad-free tiers became common practice among social media giants and streaming services, Meta was urged to follow suit as privacy concerns arose, with EU courts ruling the company's initial strategy of obtaining one-time consent as illegal.