Facebook is facing a fresh pair ofin Europe. The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the EU’s Competition Commission both announced formal investigations into the giant’s operations today — with what’s likely to have been coordinated timing. The competition regulators will scrutinize how of its single sign-on tool — specifically looking at whether it uses this data as an unfair lever against competitors in markets such as classified ads. The closely together as the progress of their independent investigation. With the U.K. outside the European trading bloc (post-Brexit), the national has a freer rein to pursue studies that may be similar to or overlap with antitrust probes the EU is also undertaking.
And the two Facebook investigations appear similar on the surface — both broadly focused on how Facebook uses advertising data. (Though outcomes could, of course, differ.) The danger for Facebook here is that a higher dimension of scrutiny will be applied to its business as a result of dual regulatory action — with the opportunity for joint working and cross-referencing of its responses (not to mention a bit of investigative competition between the U.K. and the EU’s agencies). The CMA said it’s looking at whether in providing services for online classified ads and online dating through how it gathers and uses specific data. Specifically, the U.K.’s regulator said it’s concerned that Facebook might have gained an unfair advantage over competitors providing online classified ads and online dating services.
Facebook plays in both spaces, of course, via Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Dating, respectively. In a statement on its action, CMA“We intend to thoroughly investigate Facebook’s use of data to assess whether its business practices are giving it an unfair advantage in the online dating and classified ad sectors. Any such advantage can make it harder for competing firms to succeed, , and may reduce customer choice.” The European Commission’s investigation will — similarly — focus on whether by using advertising data gathered from advertisers to compete with them in markets where it is active.
Although it only cites classified ads as its example of the neighboring market of social network in breach of the bloc’s competition rules. In a separate (national) action, Germany’s competition authority opened a similar probe into Facebook, tying Oculus to using a Facebook account at the end of . So Facebook now has multiple filed against it on its home turf, also back in December 2020.for its probe. The EU’s probe has another element, though, as it said it’s also looking at whether Facebook ties its online classified ads service to its
“When advertising their services on Facebook, companies that compete directly with Facebook may provide commercially press release. “This applies to online classified ads providers, the platforms on which many European . Online classified ads providers advertise their services on Facebook’s . At the same time, they compete with Facebook’s own online classified ads service, ‘Facebook Marketplace’.” The Commission added that a preliminary investigation it already undertook had Facebook is distorting the market for online classified ads services. It will now take an in-depth look to fully judge whether the social media behemoth is breaking EU competition rules.. Facebook might then use this data to compete against the companies which provided it,” the Commission noted in a
In a statement, EVP Margrethe Vestager, who also heads up competition policy for the bloc, added: “Almost 3 billion people use Facebook every month, and almost 7 million firms advertise on Facebook in total. Facebookon users’ activities on its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups. We will look in detail at whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage, particularly in the online classified ads sector, where people buy and sell goods daily and where Facebook competes with companies from which it collects data. In today’s , data should not be used in ways that distort competition.” Reached for comment on the antitrust probes, Facebook sent us this statement:
Up til now, Facebook has been a bit of a blind spot for the Commission’s competition authority — with multiple investigations and enforcements chalked up by the bloc against other tech giants, such as (most notably). But Vestager’s Facebook “dry patch” has now formally ended. (The EU’s informal investigation into Facebook Marketplace has been ongoing since March 2019.) The CMA, meanwhile, is aimed squarely at tech giants like Facebook and Google under a U.K. plan to clip the wings of the adtech duopoly.