A UK perspective on ‘consent or pay’ online advertising models

The ICO says that in principle, data protection law does not prohibit business models that involve ‘consent or pay’. By Katie Hewson and Eva Lu of Stephenson Harwood LLP.

In November 2023, Meta introduced a subscription model for its Facebook and Instagram services in the EEA and Switzerland. Users in these jurisdictions could pay for an ad-free version of the service at €9.99 per month when purchased online, or €12.99 per month when purchased through the Google or Apple app stores. Meta has since reportedly offered to reduce the subscription fee to €5.99.

Unlike the ad-supported free versions of other online platforms, Meta’s free versions of Facebook and Instagram will not provide users with an option to decide whether they want their personal data to be used for personalised advertising. If users don’t pay for the service, they will only get access to it if they consent to their personal data being used for behavioural advertising.

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