The European Commission (EC) opened this Friday a Facebook antitrust investigation to assess whether the US company violated EU competition rules by using advertising data from advertisers in order to compete with them in markets such as classified ads.
The Commission explained in a statement that the formal investigation will also analyze if Facebook links its online classifieds service “Facebook Marketplace” to its social network, in breach of the competition rules of the European Union (EU).
“Close to 3 billion people use Facebook on a monthly basis and almost 7 million companies advertise on Facebook in total,” underlined the EC Executive Vice President and Head of Competition, Margrethe Vestager.
Added that the tech giant “collects large amounts of data from the activities of its social network users and beyond, allowing you to target specific customer groups. “
“We will look in detail whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantageparticularly in the online classifieds sector, “said the Danish commissioner.
He recalled that in that sector Facebook competes with companies from which it also collects data: “In today’s digital economy, data shouldn’t be used in a way that distorts competition,” Vestager stressed.
Facebook: “We will continue to cooperate”
For its part, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that “we are always developing new and better services to meet the changing demand of people who use Facebook.”
Thus, he affirmed that the shopping (Marketplace) and dating (Dating) sites “offer people more choices”, adding that “both products operate in a highly competitive environment with many large operators.”
“We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations to show that they lack foundation“, he concluded.
The Commission indicated that it will carry out its investigation on a “priority” basis and recalled, in any case, that the opening of the dossier “does not prejudge its result.”
The United Kingdom also investigates it
For its part, the United Kingdom also launched its own investigation on Facebook’s use of data on Friday, and the EC hopes to collaborate “closely” with the UK authorities in the course of independent investigations.
The EC also indicated that there is no legal deadline to conclude an antitrust investigation and that its duration depends on factors such as the complexity of the case, the extent to which the companies concerned cooperate, or the exercise of the right of defense.