Facebook faces antitrust investigation by UK regulator

Britain’s competition regulator is preparing an antitrust investigation on Facebook in the coming months, marking its latest crackdown on Big Tech dominance after launching similar investigations into Google and Apple earlier this year.

People familiar with the investigation said the Autorité de la concurrence et des Marchés will examine how Facebook has used customer data to crush rivals in social media and online advertising.

The investigation – which comes just weeks after the CMA announced investigations into Apple App Store Fees and Google’s new privacy settings – marks its last salvo against the power of Big Tech since it became a full-fledged global regulator this year.

UK antitrust investigators are expected to cover similar ground to Brussels’ own investigation of the social media company, which focused on its free Marketplace platform. The European Commission is examining claims that Facebook is distorting the classifieds market through the service.

The UK survey, which is also focusing on the market, will likely examine Facebook’s status as a so-called gatekeeper for its ability to collect data from its users to bolster its competitive advantage over its competitors.

Regulators also have similar concerns about potential market abuse with respect to Amazon, which is both the owner of its platform and the seller of its own products.

A person close to the CMA said the investigation would build on the regulator’s digital advertising report, which highlighted the “strong owner advantage” Facebook enjoyed in areas such as online ads. and social media.

The timing of the official announcement of the investigation and the exact concerns could still change, the people warned. But legal experts said Facebook had so far escaped the scrutiny its rivals faced in the UK, so regulators would be very inclined to pursue a case.

Facebook declined to comment.

The new probe comes as the British watchdog prepares to assume new powers to take on Big Tech via a new digital controller be housed in the CMA, which will be created under new legislation. The Digital Markets Unit will create and monitor tailored codes of conduct for large tech companies.

The CMA was given new powers in January to conduct parallel investigations in Brussels for the first time since Brexit, instead of the ‘one-stop-shop’ principle that had previously given the EU oversight of major competition issues.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, pledged last month to take on companies such as Google and Facebook in a series of antitrust cases, and said he was ready to work. alongside Brussels for the first time as well.

Facebook is also being criticized in the United States, where it was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in December for “years of anti-competitive conduct.” The court said it would seek a court injunction that could force Facebook to reverse previous acquisitions.

A source within the CMA said: “The CMA cannot reverse past mergers. . . Becoming a monopolist is not against the law, it is to know if [companies] abuse this position once [they] to see her.”

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