The ‘pay-or-consent’ challenge for platform regulators - Users expect online services to be free but some digital
6 November 2023
For users who are unwilling to pay and unable to switch to an alternative provider, the only realistic option is to use the ad-supported free version, which only allows users to give consent. [...] The existence of alternatives The first question authorities will have to answer is whether the ad-free paid version constitutes a realistic alternative to the ad-supported free version. [...] The answer to this will depend, first, on whether the competing services offer a free version with the ability for the user to accept or refuse consent. [...] The consequences of the absence of genuine choice It is up to the DPAs and the Commission to define whether the ability to pay for Meta’s ad-free version, or to use competing services constitutes sufficient alternatives if users want to withhold consent. [...] If the answer is no because, in practice, users will not pay and will not switch because of high barriers to switching, then the ad-supported free version is unlikely to be legal under the GDPR and the DMA, as consent is the only choice for those wanting to access the ad-supported free version.