The European Union and the U.K. on Friday unveiled formal antitrust investigations into Facebook’s Marketplace classifieds service, with Britain also investigating its online dating service.
The probes of the social media giant, led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, were announced by the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust arm, and Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), saying they will look at whether Facebook uses data gathered from advertisers to provide illegal advantages to its own offerings.
The EU said its probe would “assess whether Facebook ties its online classified ads service ‘Facebook Marketplace’ to its social network, in breach of EU competition rules.”
Said European Commission executive vp Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy: “Facebook is used by almost 3 billion people on a monthly basis, and almost 7 million firms advertise on Facebook in total. Facebook collects vast troves of data on the activities of users of 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 in particular on the online classified ads sector, where people buy and sell goods every day, and where Facebook also competes with companies from which it collects data. In today’s digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition.”
The CMA said it would also investigate Facebook’s role in online dating via Facebook Dating, a dating profile service launched in Europe in 2020.
“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,” said CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli. “Any such advantage can make it harder for competing firms to succeed, including new and smaller businesses, and may reduce customer choice. We will be working closely with the European Commission as we each investigate these issues, as well as continuing our coordination with other agencies to tackle these global issues.”
A Facebook spokesman said its Marketplace and Dating services “operate in a highly competitive environment with many large incumbents. We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations to demonstrate that they are without merit.”