EU Advances Probe Into Meta’s Facebook Marketplace

Image credit: Meta

EU files formal complaint with Meta over Facebook Marketplace in first time it has investigated company on antitrust grounds

European Union regulators have advanced an antitrust probe into Facebook parent Meta Platforms and its classified ads programme, in a move that could lead to a substantial fine or to changes in Meta’s business practices.

The European Commission has sent Meta a formal complaint, called a statement of objections, marking the firs time the Commission has carried out an in-depth antitrust probe into the company.

“With its Facebook social network, Meta reaches globally billions of monthly users and millions active advertisers,” said EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement.

“Our preliminary concern is that Meta ties its dominant social network Facebook to its online classified ad services called Facebook Marketplace,” she said. This means Facebook uses have “no choice” but to have access to Facebook Marketplace, she said.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission meta, facebook
EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission

‘Unfair’ conditions

The regulator also said it’s concerned Meta imposes unfair conditions on competing for online advertising services through its terms of service.

The EU fined Meta 110 million euros (£95m) five years ago for supplying “misleading” information during the bloc’s review of its acquisition of WhatsApp.

German antitrust regulators found its data collection practices abusive in 2017 and ordered it to stop tracking users outside the social network, but the decision faces ongoing legal challenges.

Rivals complained Meta linking Marketplace online classified ads to the Facebook social network is unfair, and said it was using non-public advertising data to optimise Marketplace. This prompted the Commission to open its probe in June 2021.

Formal probe

Meta can now defend itself in writing or request a closed-door hearing with the Commission before it makes a final decision.

The firm can be fined up to 10 percent of its global turnover or be forced to make changes to its business.

Tim Lamb, head of EMEA competition at Meta, said the claims were “without foundation”.

“We will continue to work with regulatory authorities to demonstrate that our product innovation is pro-consumer and pro-competitive,” he said.