Consumer groups file complaint against WhatsApp

WhatsApp under fire from consumer groups.

European consumer organisations have 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 made by BEUC, an umbrella group for consumer organisations in Europe, is 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 Practice, the organisation 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,” said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.

“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,” she added.

The complaint highlights the opacity of the new terms and the fact that WhatsApp has failed to explain in plain and intelligible language the nature of the changes. It is “basically impossible” for consumers to get a clear understanding of what consequences WhatsApp’s changes entail for their privacy, particularly in relation to the transfer of their personal data to Facebook and other third parties. This ambiguity amounts to a breach of EU consumer law which obliges companies to use clear and transparent contract terms and commercial communications, the organisation added.


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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