The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and eight members have lodged a complaint with the European Commission and European network of consumer authorities against WhatsApp alleging EU consumer rights’ breaches.

The case is centred on what the groups claim is the messaging service unduly pressuring users to accept new terms of use and a privacy policy which were neither transparent nor comprehensible for users. WhatsApp disputes that contention.

BEUC and its members say the service’s persistent, recurrent and intrusive notifications push users to accept the policy updates.

“The content of these notifications, their nature, timing and recurrence put an undue pressure on users and impair their freedom of choice,” the organisation added.

The consuming groups also claim 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,” BEUC said.

Its director-general Monique Goyens added: “We’re calling on the authorities to take swift action against WhatsApp to ensure that it respects consumer rights.”

In response, WhatsApp refuted the claims its new privacy policy was insufficiently explained.

“BEUC’s action is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of the update to our terms of service,” a WhatsApp spokesperson was quoted as saying by the pan-European Euractiv news service.

“Our recent update explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

The company referred to the FAQs published on its website which state: “We recently updated our privacy policy and we have received many thoughtful questions.

“With some of the rumours going around, we want to answer some of the common questions we have received. We go to great lengths to build WhatsApp in a way that helps people communicate privately.

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. The changes are related to optional business features on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”


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