Insights European Commission announces that WhatsApp has agreed to comply fully with EU rules, informing users better and respecting their choices on contract updates

The Commission has announced that WhatsApp has committed to being more transparent on changes to its terms of service. It will make it easier for users to reject updates when they disagree with them and will clearly explain when rejecting an update means that the user can no longer use WhatsApp’s services. Further, WhatsApp has confirmed that users’ personal data is not shared with third parties or other Meta companies, including Facebook, for advertising purposes.

European consumer organisation BEUC and eight of its member associations first alerted the Commission to alleged unfair practices in relation to WhatsApp’s updates to its terms of service and privacy policy in July 2021. This resulted in two letters to WhatsApp from the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) in January and June 2022 stating that consumers must be clearly informed about WhatsApp’s business model, and whether WhatsApp derives revenues from commercial policies relating to users’ personal data. Following discussions, WhatsApp confirmed that it does not share users’ personal data for advertising purposes.

Key features of the commitments state that WhatsApp will:

  • explain what changes it intends to make to users’ contracts and how they could affect their rights;
  • include the option to reject updated terms of service as prominently as the option to accept them; and
  • ensure that notifications on updates can be dismissed or that update reviews can be delayed and that users’ choices will be respected and WhatsApp will refrain from sending recurring notifications.

The CPC will now actively monitor how WhatsApp implements these commitments when making any future updates to its policies and, where necessary, enforce compliance, including imposing fines. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.