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Latest antitrust problem the EU has with Meta? It's classified

Believes Facebook Marketplace broke EU rules by 'distorting competition' for online ads

The European Commission has a problem with Meta tying its online classified ads service, Marketplace, to the Facebook social network, and is concerned it is "imposing unfair trading conditions on Facebook Marketplace's competitors for its own benefit."

The beef appears to be that the antisocial network pulls in a stash of "ads-related data derived from competitors" with the EU claiming it could use that information to get the upper hand.

In a Statement of Objections raised today, the EC said FB users automatically have access to Facebook Marketplace, whether or not they want to, claiming this gives it a "substantial distribution advantage that competitors cannot match."

The investigation into the tech company's Marketplace was first started last year, when it was accused of collecting "vast troves of data on the activities of users of its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups."

Separately, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority also started looking into whether Facebook had unfairly used the data gained from its advertising and single sign-on to benefit its own services on the same day last year. At the time of writing the probe was at the "further investigation" stage.

Tim Lamb, Meta's head of EMEA competition, said in a prepared statement: "The claims made by the European Commission are without foundation."

Lamb added: "We will continue to work with regulatory authorities to demonstrate that our product innovation is pro-consumer and pro-competitive."

The European Commission claims Meta authorized itself to request its rivals' "ads-related data" in a way it claimed was "unjustified, disproportionate and not necessary for the provision of online display advertising services."

Executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "With its Facebook social network, Meta reaches globally billions of monthly users and millions of active advertisers. Our preliminary concern is that Meta ties its dominant social network Facebook to its online classified ad services called Facebook Marketplace. This means Facebook users have no choice but to have access to Facebook Marketplace.

"Furthermore, we are concerned that Meta imposed unfair trading conditions, allowing it to use of data on competing online classified ad services. If confirmed, Meta's practices would be illegal under our competition rules."

The European Commission also said today that it had shut the door on its "Jedi Blue" agreement probe, which had been looking into Meta's deal with Google over bidding for ad space, meaning the Brussels official who has that one in their intray can tick that off the list. A separate look at Google's possible abuse of dominance in the ad tech sector is ongoing. ®

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