Is it legal to charge for access websites without cookies?

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Is it legal to charge for access websites without cookies?

Is it legal to charge for access websites without cookies?

Recently, the question of whether it is legal to charge for access to websites without cookies has raised doubts among many. Currently there are many web pages that have implemented in their cookie banner the possibility for the user to choose between accepting to browse the website with personalized advertising for free or, where appropriate, reject the use of cookies and browse without advertising by subscribing to a subscription, with the consequent economic cost defined.

Why charge to access websites without cookies?

The answer to this question lies in the fact that many free or low-cost websites, platforms or Apps monetize or make an economic profit through personalized advertising hosted on them. In order to impact users with personalized advertising (based on their tastes, preferences and browsing habits) and, therefore, the ads shown to users convert into possible purchases, it is essential to use and accept cookie technology.

However, taking into consideration the regulatory context in terms of privacy and data protection, since 11 January 2024, websites must comply with the latest Spanish Data Protection Agency’s guide on the use of cookies and offer users the equal possibility to accept and/or reject cookies, as well as the fact that many internet browsers have refused to continue allowing third-party cookies.

The reality is that the acceptance of cookies by users has decreased considerably in recent times, which has caused the companies behind different websites, platforms and / or Apps have resorted to other ways to make money, such as, in the case that concerns us, charging users to access their content without the need to accept cookies.

Is it legal to charge for access websites without cookies?

Considering that the platform must offer the user the possibility of accepting or rejecting the payment, allowing him, in any case, to access the full content of such platform, it would be lawful for a company to offer “rewards” or “incentives” to users, provided that the user has been previously informed about this, he has the real possibility of granting or withdrawing his consent freely and that the practices used by the companies are not coercive or unfair.

In fact, the European Data Protection Committee has established that it is prohibited to prevent a user from accessing a service or content based on the lack of consent, since, for this authority, granting consent merely because of the possibility of accessing the content does not constitute a real ability to choose. Therefore, the fact of choosing whether or not to pay to browse without personalized advertising would be considered as “a real capacity of choice”, taking into account that subscribing to a content entails the formalization of a contract with the elements that this entails: consent, object and cause.

In short, receiving the services of a company in exchange for providing information (through the acceptance of cookies and the consequent collection of user data and preferences), would be considered as lawful as deciding not to receive personalized advertising in exchange for an economic payment, the user being free to choose one option or the other.

At Letslaw, our digital lawyers have wide experience on websites legal documents and will advise you on the matter and help you to comply with the regulations and their requirements. Contact our team of Data Protection lawyers.

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