Wednesday 26 May 2021 3:27 pm

EU set to open antitrust probe into Facebook’s classified ads business

The EU is said to be on the brink of opening a formal antitrust investigation into Facebook following complaints from rivals about the platform’s classified ads business.

Regulators have already sent questions to Facebook and its competitors asking whether the social media site distorted the classified ads market by promoting its Marketplace services for free to its 2bn users.

Facebook Marketplace, which launched in 2016, allows users to buy and sell goods to each other without fees. It is used by 800m Facebook users in 70 countries.

The European Commission first started looking at the platform in 2019, asking companies whether they considered Marketplace as a close rival and how many visits to their sites came from ads placed on Facebook’s platform.

Classified ads rivals are said to have complained that Facebook used its market power to gain an advantage.

Moves to open a formal investigation, which were first reported by the Financial Times, could mark the start of a lengthy process that could take a number of years.

It could result in a fine of as much as 10 per cent of Facebook’s global turnover and an order to stop anti-competitive practices.

The EU is already looking into how Facebook collects and monetises its data as part of a separate antitrust case.

A formal probe would be the latest crackdown by EU competition czar Margrethe Vestager, who has opened cases into Google, Apple and Amazon.

The European Commission and Facebook declined to comment.