Biggest European economy tightens its grip on Meta

Germany's cartel office, the Bundeskartellamt, imposed stricter rules on Meta after determining its "paramount significance for competition across markets."

A new provision gives Germany's regulator more control over the practices of large digital companies.

"If the Bundeskartellamt formally determines that an undertaking is of paramount significance for competition across markets, it can prohibit it from engaging in anti-competitive practices," it said.

Meta owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, operates features such as Stories and Reels, offers like Shops or Watch, and continuously expands its range of services. It also owns a manufacturer of VR technology, Oculus, and aims to build a metaverse.

"The digital ecosystem created by Meta has a very large user base and makes the company the key player in social media. Our investigations have shown that Meta is of paramount significance across markets, also within the meaning of competition law," Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, said.

"Following a proceeding which was contested for some time, we have now formally proven the company's relevant position. Based on this, we are able to intervene against potential competition infringements more efficiently than with the toolkit available to us so far. Meta has waived the right to appeal our decision."

A spokesperson for Meta told Reuters it would comply with the decision.

"Even if we do not share the reasoning that has led to the Federal Cartel Office's decision, we will continue to concentrate on providing our users in Germany with the best possible experience in keeping with all the laws and regulations," a spokesperson said.

Meta's services are used by more than 3.5 billion people worldwide.

In early 2019, Germany's cartel office prohibited Meta from combining user data from different sources due to competition concerns. Since 2020, the Bundeskartellamt has been conducting another proceeding against Meta for linking Meta Quest's (formerly Oculus) offer of VR headsets/products with Facebook.

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