Exclusive-Meta sought to settle EU antitrust investigations, sources say

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FILE PHOTO: Headquarters of Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc in Mountain View

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Facebook owner Meta reached out to EU antitrust regulators some time back in an attempt to settle investigations into its use of customer data and the tying of its classified advertisements service to its social network, people with direct knowledge said.

There were very preliminary discussions which so far have not made any progress, the people said.

The European Commission and Meta declined to comment.

“I am not surprised that there is no traction. You can better assess the exposure risk if you see something in writing like a statement of objections,” said Tobias Caspary, a partner at London-based Fried Frank.

The EU competition enforcer launched an investigation into Facebook in June last year, focusing on whether the social network unfairly use advertisers’ data to compete with them in the online classified ads sector.

A second investigation centres on whether Facebook ties its classified ads service Marketplace to its social network to give it an advantage in reaching customers and shut out rival online classified ad services.

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The Commission is readying charges against the company, other people familiar with the matter told Reuters last month.

Companies sometimes seek to settle after receiving such charges.

Settling an antitrust investigation allows a company to stave off possible fines up to 10% of its global turnover. There would also be no finding of infringement, which could be helpful to ward off damages claims.

The Commission recently expanded its powers with landmark rules known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which makes it illegal for online gatekeepers to favour their own services or impose unfair access conditions to their app store.

Such a move could encourage Big Tech to settle ongoing EU investigations where they may have a say in determining possible remedies, unlike the DMA.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Lisa Shumaker)

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