WhatsApp privacy update in breach of EU directives, says consumer watchdog

BEUC accuses messaging platform of breaching consumer rights through "vague" policy prompt
Image: IDGNS

13 July 2021

The European Consumer Organisation, together with eight of its members, has filed a complaint with the European Commission and the European network of consumer authorities against WhatsApp for multiple breaches of EU consumer rights. For several months now, WhatsApp has been unduly pressuring its users to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy. Yet these terms are neither transparent nor comprehensible for users.

The complaint is first due to the persistent, recurrent and intrusive notifications pushing users to accept WhatsApp’s policy updates. The content of these notifications, their nature, timing and recurrence put an undue pressure on users and impair their freedom of choice. As such, they are a breach of the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices.

In addition, the complaint highlights the opacity of the new terms and that WhatsApp failed to explain the nature of the changes in plain and simple language. According s statementf from BEUC it is “basically impossible” for consumers to get a proper explanation of the update’s implications for their privacy – especially how their data might be handled by WhatsApp parent company Facebook




BEUC director General Monique Goyens said: “WhatsApp has been bombarding users for months with aggressive and persistent pop-up messages to force them to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy. They’ve been telling users that their access to their app will be cut off if they do not accept the new terms. Yet consumers don’t know what they’re actually accepting. WhatsApp has been deliberately vague about this and consumers would be exposed to far reaching data processing without valid consent. That’s why we’re calling on the authorities to take swift action against WhatsApp to ensure that it respects consumer rights”.

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