Facebook faces two antitrust inquiries in Europe

LONDON – European Union and British regulators said on Friday they are launching separate antitrust investigations into Facebook to broaden their efforts to rein in the world’s biggest technology companies.

check by The European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation bloc, and UK Competition and Markets AuthorityTake aim at a key business strategy used by Facebook and other large tech companies: using your size and strength in one area to penetrate into others. Amazon took its position as the largest online retailer to become a major player in video streaming. Apple used the iPhone with Apple Pay to be one of the world’s largest mobile payments. Google continued to dominate as a search engine in many different areas.

regulators said they would start Facebook Marketplace formal investigation, an eBay-like service introduced in 2016 for users to buy and sell products. Under investigation is whether Facebook’s cross-promotion of the marketplace to the more than two billion users of its main social network gave the company an unfair advantage over rivals in violation of EU competition laws.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice president in charge of competition policy, said on Friday that Facebook collects “huge troves of data” on the activities of its users, “enabling it to target specific customer groups.”

“We will look in detail to see whether this data gives Facebook an unfair competitive advantage, particularly in the online classified ad sector,” she said in a statement, “where people buy and sell stuff every day, and where Facebook competes with companies.” who collects this data.

“In today’s digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition,” she said.

In the UK, antitrust regulators are already investigating the company’s advertising practices. On Friday, the competition regulator said it was looking at Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Dating, a service introduced in Europe last year. The British regulator said it would work with the European Commission, although the investigations are independent of each other.

Facebook defended its business practices in a statement on Friday. “Market and Dating give people more choices and both products operate in a highly competitive environment with many large incumbents,” said a Facebook representative. “We will continue to fully cooperate with the investigation to demonstrate that they are without merit.”

The announcements are just the beginning of a formal investigation that could take years to complete.

A preliminary investigation was already underway, with the European Commission sending questions to Facebook’s rivals. Last year, Facebook sued the European Commission over demands made by regulators to turn over documents and data, saying the content sought was overly broad and contained highly sensitive information about employees. Facebook said it had provided more than a million documents related to the Marketplace investigation.

The investigation adds to the regulatory challenges Facebook is facing around the world. In December, the Federal Trade Commission announced antitrust charges against Facebook for illegally buying smaller rivals to stamp out competition. Australian regulators have filed a similar lawsuit. German antitrust regulators also brought charges against Facebook over data collection, a case now under appeal.

Since leaving the European Union, Britain has been ramping up its own efforts to control how big tech firms use their size to enter new territories and the problems they pose to regulations. Huh. Last year, the competition authority published a report which stated Facebook and Google closely monitored, especially their dominance in online advertising. Britain is considering the creation of a new regulatory agency tasked with overseeing the biggest tech companies. This year, Britain launches antitrust probe Google and Apple’s App Store.

EU regulators have been perhaps the most aggressive tech industry watchdog in the world. In November, regulators filed preliminary charges against Amazon for misusing access to its size and data to harm small merchants. In May, charges were also filed against Apple over its anti-competitive App Store policies.

In addition to the antitrust investigation, Ms Vestager is leading an effort to pass new laws in the EU to further regulate the tech industry such as banking or transport, a process that is expected to be completed in 2022 or beyond. It may take. The proposed laws would make it easier for regulators to intervene in the digital economy, including potential restrictions on how companies leverage their size to enter new markets. Facebook and others may also face new legal requirements to moderate user-generated content posts on their platforms.

ashe nelson Contributed reporting from London.

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