The UK competition regulator is preparing an antitrust investigation into Facebook in the coming months, marking its latest crackdown on Big Tech’s dominance after launching similar investigations at Google and Apple earlier this year.
People close to the investigation said the Competition and Markets Authority would look in depth at how Facebook allegedly uses customer data to crush rivals in social media and online advertising.
The investigation – which comes just weeks after the announcement of investigations by the CMA into Apple’s App Store rates and Google’s new privacy settings – marks its latest salvo against the power of Big Tech since becoming a global regulator in its own right this year. become.
UK antitrust investigators are expected to cover a similar field to Brussels’s own investigation into the social media company, which focused on its free Marketplace platform. The European Commission is investigating claims that Facebook is disrupting the classified ads market through the service.
The UK probe, which also targets the Marketplace, is likely to investigate Facebook’s status as a so-called gatekeeper for its ability to collect data from its users in order to increase its competitive advantage over rivals.
Regulators also have similar concerns about potential market abuse when it comes to Amazon, which owns its platform as well as the seller of its own products.
A person close to the CMA said the probe would draw on the regulator’s report on digital advertising, which highlighted the “strong benefit of the incumbency” that Facebook was taking advantage of in areas such as online advertising and social media.
The timing of the probe’s official announcement and exact concerns may still shift, these people warned. But legal experts said Facebook had so far escaped the intense scrutiny faced by its rivals in the UK, so there would be a strong need among regulators to prosecute a case.
Facebook declined to comment.
The new probe comes as the UK watchdog prepares to assume new powers to tackle Big Tech through a new digital regulator to be housed in the CMA, which will be established under new legislation. The digital markets department will create and monitor custom codes of conduct for major technology companies.
The CMA was given new powers in January to conduct investigations in parallel with Brussels for the first time since Brexit, replacing the “one-stop shop” principle that previously gave the EU control over major competition matters.
Andrea Coscelli, the CEO of the CMA, promised last month to tackle companies like Google and Facebook with a series of antitrust cases, saying he was willing to work alongside Brussels for the first time as well.
Facebook is also under fire in the US, where it was indicted by the Federal Trade Commission in December for a “year-long course of anti-competitive behavior.” The court said it would seek a court order to force Facebook to end previous acquisitions.
A source within the CMA said: “The CMA cannot reverse previous mergers. Becoming a monopolist is not against the law, but it is. [companies] abuse that position once [they] have it.”