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Embracing Transparency: What Other Platforms Can Learn from WhatsApp’s Policy Change Commitments

posted 11 months ago

Social media giant WhatsApp has made a significant commitment to improving transparency and user rights concerning changes to its terms of service. In response to a joint action led by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Swedish Consumer Agency, and the European Commission (EC), WhatsApp has agreed to implement measures that ensure users are well-informed about the impact of updates to its terms of service. In this article, we will describe WhatsApp’s commitments and the implications for users, as well as highlight how other online companies can learn from these developments.

WhatsApp’s Commitments to Enhanced Transparency and User Rights:

 Following the mentioned cross-European action, WhatsApp users will benefit from the following changes:

     

      • Clear Explanations: WhatsApp will provide clear explanations in advance about any intended changes to its terms of service and how these changes may affect users’ rights. Instead of complex legal jargon, WhatsApp will communicate updates using simple language that users can easily comprehend.

      • Rejection Option: users will have the option to reject updated terms of service as prominently as they can accept them.

      • Non-Aggressive Notifications: instead of bombarding users with repeated and aggressive notifications, WhatsApp will provide non-intrusive alerts about updates, allowing users to decide when and how they want to review them.

    To ensure compliance, the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) will actively monitor WhatsApp’s implementation of these commitments in its future policy updates. If necessary, enforcement measures, including potential fines, may be imposed.

    Learnings for Other Online Companies:

    WhatsApp’s case highlights the significance of clear and transparent communication with users. Other online service providers can learn from this and take actions to build trust and avoid similar investigations and complaints. Here are some additional steps that your online business can take:

       

        • Proactive communication: proactively inform users about any changes to your T&Cs through clear and concise notifications, ensuring they understand the implications and impact on their rights. Also, don’t forget send these notifications well in advance. Sufficient notice allows your users to review the changes and understand their implications.

        • Retrospective changes: avoid retroactively applying changes unless it is necessary, e.g. to comply with legal obligations or protect user safety.

        • Opt-out option with clear instructions: offer a straightforward opt-out option for users who do not wish to accept the updated terms. Provide clear instructions on how they can exercise this option and what are the outcomes.

        • User-friendly summaries: provide concise summaries of the key changes to make it easier for users to grasp the main points without overwhelming them with lengthy terms. For example, when updating terms, send a notification stating: “We’re making some updates to our terms and conditions. Click here to learn more about what’s changing and how it affects you”, and describe the key change. Try to use everyday language that users understand, and avoid technical or legal terminology as much as possible.

        • Additional information: where appropriate, offer additional resources, such as links to support centres or FAQs, to allow users to obtain further information and address any concerns they may have.

      How can Logan & Partners help?

      It is crucial for online platforms to proactively communicate changes to users and respect their choices. The events surrounding WhatsApp’s policy updates underscore the importance of proactive engagement and transparent communication. If you have any questions or need legal assistance regarding changes to your online terms and conditions, and how to implement them, please contact Isadora Werneck for a free consultation.

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