Viber changes in several aspects thanks to GVH’s proceedings

The Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) has corrected the behaviour of yet another global technology company with a complex package of measures that is in line with the latest data protection requirements. Under the obligations imposed by the GVH, Viber Media, the operator of the Viber app, has been forced to implement a series of measures to help consumers better understand the features of the platform and make more informed choices about the service.

1. Reason for the proceedings

Viber is an internet-based messaging service with a significant number of users in Hungary. The GVH’s proceedings were launched because information on the free and secure nature of the Viber service was not available in Hungarian, and consumers were not fully informed about the data management. The proceedings were brought against Viber Media S.á.r.l., a company registered in Luxembourg which

is a part of a group of undertakings controlled by the Japanese-based company, Rakuten Inc.

2. Information in Hungarian

The GVH’s investigation concluded with a commitment to protect the interests of Hungarian consumers, which – without the national competition authority finding an infringement or lack thereof – is possible based on voluntary commitments by the undertaking involved in the domestic service. Some of the compliance requirements had already been introduced by the company operating Viber during the proceedings. For example, the preparation and continuous updating of data management notices and information available in the app in Hungarian.

3. Viber Plus

Viber Media has also agreed to provide additional information on data management before registration begins and to make a new feature, Viber Plus subscription, available to existing and new users in Hungary, which, among many other features, will enable an ad-free Viber experience. Users who opt into the monthly Viber Plus service will not have their personal data used for advertising and will not receive any more ads as long as their Viber Plus subscription is active, the company’s commitment states. The commitment will also bring positive changes to the non-paid basic Viber service, increasing the role of consumer consent to reduce the amount of personal data that can be used by the company by default and improving consumer information on data protection and security issues.

4. Data Protection Bot

The company has also undertaken the development of a Hungarian-language chat-bot (‘Data Protection Bot’) to inform users about online data protection and security. The Data Protection Bot helps consumers to be in control of their data through concise, understandable visual messages and links to relevant decision points. The company has committed to operating the Data Protection Bot for at least two years.

5. Cooperation with NAIH

The GVH has developed the agreed package of measures in cooperation with the Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH), correcting Viber’s behaviour in a way that is in line with the latest European data protection standards.

6. Other proceedings

For years now, the Hungarian Competition Authority has paid particular attention to investigating the market behaviour of large technology companies and online platforms that affect the interests and market position of a significant number of consumers and businesses. In recent years, the GVH has imposed competition correction obligations on Google and PayPal, among others. Furthermore, Apple and have been obligated to pay significant fines for competition supervision in Hungary. The GVH concluded its investigation into Wish, one of the world’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, in February 2023 and closed its investigation into TikTok at the end of November last year, where the Hungarian competition authority achieved results with global impact.

The case’s reference number is VJ/6/2020.

Do you have a question about data protection or the position of Data Protection Officer? Contact me!

Dr. Miklós Péter – GDPR lawyer / +36306485521

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