On Monday, Dec. 19, the European Commission issued a statement of objections to Meta, which is now facing potential fines or charges if it does not change how it runs its business.
"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," said European Commission Executive Vice President and Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
"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 data on competing online classified ad services," continued Vestager. "If confirmed, Meta's practices would be illegal under our competition rules."
The European Commission first opened an investigation into Meta's possible violations of antitrust laws in June 2021 following complaints from Meta's rivals that the firm unfairly linked Marketplace's online classified ads service to Facebook and was using non-public advertising data obtained from competitors to optimize Marketplace.
This is the first time that the EU has accused Meta of abusing its dominant position in the market. But this is not the first time that the bloc has fined the company. Around five years ago, the EU fined Facebook 110 million euros ($117 million) for failing to supply correct information during the EU's merger review of Facebook's takeover of the end-to-end encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. (Related: WhatsApp HACKED: Nearly 500 million phone numbers from 84 countries and territories put up for sale.)
Furthermore, a German court has found that Facebook's data collection practices abused the country's antitrust laws and ordered it to stop tracking users outside of its social network.
If the European Commission finds Meta guilty of violating European antitrust laws, the company can be fined up to 10 percent of its global revenues. This means that the company could be fined up to $11.792 billion based on data from Meta's 2021 results report.
If found guilty, the commission would also have the right to make changes to get rid of Meta's anti-competitive practices. This means that the EU could force Meta to separate Facebook Marketplace from its social media platform or to allow Meta's rivals to access data used for the online classified ads service.
Tim Lamb, Meta's head of competition for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, rejected all of the European Commission's claims regarding Meta's alleged anti-competitive practices.
"The claims made by the European Commission are without foundation. We will continue to work with regulatory authorities to demonstrate that our product innovation is pro-consumer and pro-competitive," he said.
Meta will have a chance to defend itself by submitting a written statement addressing the commission's claims. It will also be able to request a closed-door hearing with EU antitrust enforcers before the commission makes a final decision on the charges.
Learn more about the laws violated by tech giants at BigTech.news.
Watch this clip from Newsmax discussing how Big Tech companies like Meta are afraid of competition and antitrust laws.