EU authorities are considering new rules to protect consumers as key tech, finance and fashion firms dive into the metaverse.
The EU’s antitrust chief today said that authorities need to better understand the ‘metaverse’ before introducing regulation. The comments come as major fashion brand Adidas, tech giant Meta and financial heavyweight PwC prepare to lure consumers into curated metaverses, virtual reality environments which will allow customers to purchase products, access services, socialise and play online games.
“The metaverse is here already,” Margrethe Vestager said today in comments reported by Reuters. “So of course we start analysing what will be the role for a regulator, what is the role for our legislature.”
“Everything we do must be fact-based and based on the information that we can get… We need to understand it before we can decide what actions would be appropriate,” Vestager continued.
Under Vestager’s leadership the EU’s antitrust commission is waging a campaign against tech giants. In November, Google parent company Alphabet lost an appeal against a €2.42bn fine issued by Vestager in a 2017 antitrust case. Meta has even suggested it will shut down Facebook and Instagram in Europe as EU regulators prepare tough new legislation that will dictate rules around citizens’ data being transferred to the US.
Developments in EU metaverse regulation will likely be watched with interest by the UK’s own antitrust regulator, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA). The UK watchdog’s digital markets unit and digital regulation cooperation forum are conducting exploratory work regarding the metaverse as part of their horizon scanning. The CMA has plans to meet with businesses and stakeholders to discuss immersive technologies in Spring 2022.
Facebook’s rebrand as Meta has raised concerns about the company’s possible dominance in the new virtual reality sector with the embattled company, which believes the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, investing heavily in augmented reality.