Home MOREBUSINESS & ECONOMY WhatsApp agrees to comply fully with EU rules, informing users better and respecting their choices on contract updates

WhatsApp agrees to comply fully with EU rules, informing users better and respecting their choices on contract updates

Following a dialogue with EU consumer protection authorities and the European Commission (CPC network), WhatsApp committed to being more transparent on changes to its terms of service.

by gary cartwright
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Moreover, the company will make it easier for users to reject updates when they disagree with them, and will clearly explain when such rejection leads the user to no longer be able to use WhatsApp’s services. Also, WhatsApp confirmed that users’ personal data are not shared with third-parties or other Meta companies – including Facebook – for advertising purposes. The dialogue was coordinated by the Swedish Consumer Agency and the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and facilitated by the Commission.

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “I welcome WhatsApp’s commitments to changing its practices to comply with EU rules, actively informing users of any changes to their contract, and respecting their choices instead of asking them each time they open the app. Consumers have a right to understand what they agree to and what that choice entails concretely, so that they can decide whether they want to continue using the platform.”

The CPC Network first sent a letter to WhatsApp in January 2022, following an alert by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and eight of its member associations on alleged unfair practices in the context of WhatsApp’s updates to their terms of service and privacy policy. In June 2022, the CPC Network sent a second letter to WhatsApp reiterating their request that consumers must be clearly informed about WhatsApp’s business model and, in particular, whether WhatsApp derives revenues from commercial policies relating to users’ personal data. Following discussions among the CPC Network, the Commission and WhatsApp, the company confirmed that it does not share users’ personal data for advertising purposes.

Overview of commitments

For any future policy updates, WhatsApp will:

  •  explain what changes it intends to make to the users’ contracts and how they could affect their rights;
  • include the possibility to reject updated terms of service as prominently as the possibility to accept them;
  • ensure that the notifications informing about the updates can be dismissed or the review of the updates can be delayed, as well as respect users’ choices and refrain from sending recurring notifications.

Next steps

The Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) will actively monitor how WhatsApp implements these commitments when making any future updates to its policies and, where necessary, enforce compliance – including by the possibility of imposing fines.

Moreover, a recent Commission study and the last CPC sweep on “dark patterns” showed that many companies use “dark patterns”, for example making it more difficult to unsubscribe from a service than to subscribe to it. The CPC Network, with the support of   the Commission, will continue to intensify their efforts to addres such illegal practices where they occur.

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