Misleading Terms & Conditions and Unfair Contract Terms: The Italian Competition Authority Opens Two Investigations against WhatsApp Inc.

By on November 1, 2016

On 28 October 2016, the Italian Competition Authority (the “Authority”) opened two investigations against WhatsApp Inc. for alleged unfair commercial practices. The first investigation by the Authority alleges that WhatsApp Inc. would have forced users to subscribe to new terms and conditions, in particular, a clause on the sharing of data with Facebook, by making users believe that, otherwise, they would have not be able to use the service. On another other side, the Authority opened a second investigation regarding other alleged unfair commercial practices. According to the Authority, WhatsApp Inc. would have included in its “Terms of Use” unfair contracts terms, including the exercise of the right of withdrawal granted exclusively to the company, the limitation on liability in favor of the company and the identification of the competent court for disputes resolution (currently only US Courts). Finally, the Authority also opened a consultation on these alleged unfair contract terms.

These investigations emerged after the Italian Data Protection Authority, on 27 September 2016, opened an investigation on WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and the data flow from WhatsApp Inc. to Facebook. In particular, the Italian Data Protection Authority asked WhatsApp Inc. to clarify certain aspects regarding the communication of data to Facebook, such as the typology of data communicated, the modality for the acquisition of consent for the communication and the measures adopted to ensure the compliance with data protection laws.

Gabriele Giunta contributed to this blog post.

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