The European Commission said it would investigate whether Facebook misused large amounts of data it collects from advertisers to compete with them in classified ads.
Facebook Inc. is facing the first in-depth investigation by European regulators, the latest in a series of attempts to sweep away major tech market dominance across the continent.
The European Commission said it would investigate whether Facebook misused some of the data it collects from advertisers to compete with them in classified ads. It will also check if the company unfairly ties its Marketplace small ad service to the social network.
At the same time, the UK said it was opening probes into Facebook’s Marketplace and Dating services hours after Germany’s antitrust watchdog announced a case targeting the Google News product. Showcase.
The cases open another front for the world’s biggest tech companies to struggle, as regulators investigate their market power during a pandemic as online commerce and advertising become more volatile much more important for people working from home. Germany is investigating Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. while France is examining the advertising practices of Google and Apple Inc.
Opening a formal investigation means that regulators can begin to build solid evidence of antitrust violations, a process that could lead to an allegation or statement of objection and ultimately a can result in hefty fines or orders to change the way the business operates.
Shares of Facebook were up less than 1% to $328.1 as of 9:47 a.m. in New York on Friday. Shares are up about 20.2% this year.
Friday’s move by the EU is the first time it has escalated a case to Facebook’s conduct beyond the preliminary stage. It follows other well-known lawsuits against Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The EU previously fined Facebook for not providing accurate information during its merger review of its WhatsApp takeover.
“Facebook collects a lot of data about the activities of its users of its social network and more,” said Margrethe Vestager, EU competition chief. EU regulators “will examine in detail whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage, particularly in the online classified advertising sector, where people buy and sell goods.” every day or not,” she said.
Online commerce plays an increasingly important role in Facebook’s business during the pandemic as more and more people shop online.
“Commercial advertising continues to perform very well and drive a great deal of our overall business,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during an earnings call in April. He said more than 1 billion people visit Facebook Marketplace every month.
Facebook “will continue to fully cooperate with investigations to demonstrate that they are of no value,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We are always developing new and better services to meet the growing demand from Facebook users.
The UK’s antitrust regulator has also opened its own investigation into Facebook data, looking into both Marketplace and the dating service the company launched in Europe last year.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it planned to investigate whether Facebook abused its dominant position by collecting data from services including single sign-on options.
The increasingly technology-focused CMA is conducting an independent investigation, but has said it will cooperate with the EU’s investigative body. The CMA said the initial investigation, including the collection of information, will run until February.
Germany’s Federal Cartel office said on Friday that it was reviewing the Google News Showcase to check whether its terms presented “unreasonable conditions” to publishers. This is the latest move in a series of Big Tech hacks by Germany’s antitrust chief Andreas Mundt.
The EU investigation mirrors an earlier investigation into Amazon by looking at how a digital platform can use data it collects from companies that use its services to compete. compete with them. The EU Commission has been investigating Facebook since 2019. Facebook sought to limit the investigation to lawsuits last year to limit the information officials can gather.