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Meta set to charge EU users for ad-free access


Instagram and Facebook users in the EU could face a charge of up to €13 a month if they refuse to sign up to personalised advertising, under a measure seeking to circumvent incoming regulation from Brussels.

Users would be offered a choice between a free, advertising-supported plan and a paid subscription of just under €10 on a desktop, rising to €13 on a mobile device.

The two-tier model is to be rolled out in the next few months, sources at Meta said, and would apply only to users in the EU and the European Economic Area, which includes Switzerland.

Meta is one of a handful of technology groups preparing for the implementation of the EU’s Digital Markets Act from March that will force big companies that act as “gatekeepers” to comply with strict rules preventing them from locking customers into software ecosystems.

Technology groups can be fined up to 10 per cent of global turnover, or up to 20 per cent for repeat offences, if they do not comply with the rules, which would ban Meta from mixing users’ data from its various services, including WhatsApp, without clear consent.

Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist, said in response to Meta’s plans, first reported in The Wall Street Journal: “Fundamental rights cannot be for sale. Are we going to pay for the right to vote or the right to free speech next?”

Meta said it was unreasonable to expect technology companies to offer services for free without targeted advertising and that a pricing model that included ad-free content was already in place at many of Meta’s competitors. YouTube, owned by Google, offers a £12.99 per month ad-free premium service, as do the social networks Twitch, for £10.99, and Reddit, for £5.99.

Meta said: “We believe in the value of free services supported by personalised ads. However, we continue to explore options to ensure we comply with evolving regulatory requirements.”

In May, Meta was fined €1.2 billion for breaching a separate European rule, the General Data Protection Regulation, by processing data on European citizens on American servers.

Concerns over data protection prevented Meta from launching Threads, the text-based social media app to rival Elon Musk’s X, or Twitter, in the EU.

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