LONDON (NEWSnet/AP) — European Union regulators accused social media company Meta Platforms on Monday of breaching the bloc’s new digital competition rulebook.

Regulators allege Meta forces Facebook and Instagram users to choose between seeing ads or paying to avoid them.

Meta began giving European users the option in November of paying for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram as a way to comply with the continent’s strict data privacy rules.

Users can pay at least $10.75 a month to avoid being targeted by ads based on their personal data.

The U.S. tech giant rolled out the option after the European Union’s top court ruled Meta must first get consent before showing ads to users, in a decision that threatened its business model of tailoring ads based on individual users’ online interests and digital activity.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said preliminary findings of its investigation show that Meta’s “pay or consent” advertising model was in breach of the 27-nation bloc’s Digital Markets Act.

Meta’s model doesn’t allow users to exercise their right to “freely consent” to allowing their personal data from its various services, including Facebook, Instagram, Marketplace, WhatsApp, and Messenger, to be combined to target them with personalized online ads, the commission said.

Meta’s model also doesn’t give users the option of a service that’s less personalized but still equivalent to its social networks, it said.

The commission had opened its investigation shortly after the rulebook, also known as the DMA, took effect in March.

One of the DMA’s goals is to rein in the power of Big Tech companies that have collected vast amounts of personal data on their users, giving them an edge on rivals competing in online ad or social media services.

Meta now has a chance to respond to the commission, which must wrap up its investigation by March 2025. The company could face fines worth 10% of its annual global revenues, which could run into the billions of euros.

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