Meta Criticises ‘Clearly Flawed’ German Decision In Court

The Court of Justice of the European Union. Credit: CJEU

Facebook owner Meta Platforms tells European Court of Justice German antitrust regulator overstepped boundaries by making data law assesment

Facebook owner Meta Platforms on Tuesday told an EU court that a German order to curb its data collection was “clearly flawed” and undermines EU data protection rules.

The company criticised Germany’s competition regulator for taking an “all-or-nothing approach” that conflated data protection and antitrust powers to seek unprecedented changes to Meta’s business model.

Its comments related to a 2019 decision by the Federal Cartel Office, which Meta is challenging in the European Court of Justice.

“The Federal Cartel Office, based on its misguided all-or-nothing approach conducted only an incomplete and skewed data protection assessment” that led to a “far reaching restriction on Facebook’s data processing”, Meta lawyer Hans-Georg Kamann told a 15-judge panel in Luxembourg, according to reports from Bloomberg and others.

EU data law

The FCO in 2019 said Meta, then called Facebook, had abused its market power by collecting users’ data without their consent for years, and ordered the practice to stop.

Meta initially challenged the decision in a German court, which asked for guidance from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The case is one of many around the world representing efforts by antitrust regulators to curb the powers of the biggest tech companies.

Meta’s Kamann said the FCO had not cooperated with the data protection regulator in Ireland, where Facebook’s European headquarters is located.

“The Bundeskartellamt (FCO) has openly undermined the substantive and procedural requirements of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) law,” he said, Reuters reported.

FCO lawyer Joerg Nothdurft dismissed this remark, saying there had been contact with data protection regulators.

‘Protecting free competition’

The German government said it was imperative for the FCO to make a data protection assessment as part of its investigation as such data is a way for online companies to gain market power.

The order “serves the objective of protecting free competition” and is not about data protection, said Philipp Krueger, a laywer for the German government.

Last week the FCO said Meta has “paramount significance for competition across markets”, a classification that gives the regulator more leeway to take action under legislation passed in early 2021.

It said the classification would allow for a more rapid conclusion to ongoing antitrust proceedings against Meta, which also include 2020 proceedings related to the links between Meta’s Oculus virtual reality hardware systems and social networks such as Facebook.