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EU regulators ask WhatsApp to clarify the changes to its terms of service

Today, the European Commission and the network of national consumer authorities (CPC), of which the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is a member, sent a letter to WhatsApp, asking the company to clarify the changes it made in 2021 to its terms of service and privacy policy and ensure their compliance with EU consumer protection law. They additionally ask WhatsApp to make sure that it fully complies with EU consumer protection rules.

Didier Reynders, EU Commissioner for Justice, says: “WhatsApp must ensure that users understand what they agree to and how their personal data is used, in particular where it is shared with business partners. I expect from WhatsApp to fully comply with EU rules that protect consumers and their privacy. This is why we launched the official dialogue today. WhatsApp has until the end of February to come back to us with concrete commitments on how they will address our concerns.”

Following an alert from the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) and national consumer authorities (including the Dutch Consumers’ Association), the European Commission and the national consumer authorities, under the lead of the Swedish Consumer Agency, are requesting WhatsApp to explain how it complies with its obligations under EU consumer protection law. The questions concern whether sufficiently clear information is given to consumers on the consequences of their decision to accept or decline the company’s new terms of service; the fairness of WhatsApp’s in-app notifications prompting consumers to accept the new terms and privacy policy; and whether consumers have an adequate opportunity to become acquainted with the new terms before accepting them. The Commission and consumer authorities are also concerned about the exchange of users’ personal data between WhatsApp and third parties or other Facebook/Meta companies. WhatsApp has until the end of February to engage with the Commission and the authorities.

More information on how the Commission works with consumer authorities to investigate and tackle breaches of EU consumer law is available here.

ACM and the Digital Economy

ACM is a member of the European network of consumer authorities, the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network, and, as such, has taken part in this joint action. This approach dovetails with the attention that ACM, in 2022 too, has for the digital economy. Consumers must be able to navigate the digital economy with confidence, where risks for unsolicited persuasion exist. We confront online providers if they use unfair conditions, or if they overstep the boundaries of online persuasion, for example, by using misleading choice architectures or other misleading and aggressive commercial practices.

See also

27-01-2022 ACM in 2022 focuses on energy & sustainability, the digital economy, and the housing market (in Dutch)
11-02-2020 Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer