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UK and EU competition watchdogs launch twin antitrust inquiries into Facebook over platform’s use of ad data

UK and EU competition watchdogs launch twin antitrust inquiries into Facebook over platform’s use of ad data
Facebook will be investigated by the competition watchdogs of the UK and the EU for allegedly using data from its advertisers to carve out an unfair advantage over rivals, authorities in the two territories have announced.

The European Commission said on Friday it had opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether the social media giant had violated the bloc’s competition rules by using ad data to gain an edge.

The probe will also assess whether the company links its online classified ads service ‘Facebook Marketplace’ to its social network, which the Commission said would be a “breach of EU competition rules.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would also target Facebook Marketplace, as well as Facebook Dating, the platform’s matchmaking service, which it launched in Europe in 2020.

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Responding to the announcements on Friday, a Facebook spokesperson said that the company’s “Marketplace and Dating offer people more choices and both products 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,” they added.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, said Facebook harvests “vast troves” of data from among its three billion monthly users and the nearly seven million companies advertising their services on the site.

The Commission said its investigation will assess the potential conflict between advertisers on Facebook’s social media platform and its Marketplace service.

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A preliminary probe had already raised “concerns that Facebook may distort competition” by using advertisers’ data to help its Marketplace service outcompete them, the EU’s executive body added.

Andrea Coscelli, head of the CMA, said the British regulator would “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.”

He added that such practices may make it “harder for competing firms to succeed” and “reduce customer choice.”

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