The US competition authority (FTC) announced on Wednesday that it has taken legal action against Meta (Facebook, Instagram) to prevent the company from selling Within Unlimited and its virtual reality (VR) physical exercise application, Supernatural , acquires.
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The federal agency considers the acquisition “illegal” because it risks limiting consumer choice and driving up prices when the social media giant is already a dominant player in the market.
“Rather than playing the competitive game, Meta is trying to buy its way to the top,” said John Newman, FTC associate director of competition, in a press release.
“Meta already has a successful VR fitness app and rivals Within’s popular Supernatural app. But Meta chose to buy market share instead of earning it through earnings. It’s an illegal acquisition,” he said.
According to the agency, the operation, if it takes place, will slow down innovation in the sector.
“The FTC filing is based on ideology and speculation, not evidence,” a company spokesman told AFP.
“The notion that this acquisition could impact competition in a field as dynamic (…) as physical activity is simply not credible,” he said.
The Californian group is already in the crosshairs of the competition authorities. It faces numerous investigations and complaints for abuse of a dominant position in the social media and online advertising markets.
In particular, the FTC accuses it of having an illegal monopoly on the “Personal Social Networks” market.
She accuses the group of “illegally buying or burying new innovators when their popularity became an existential threat,” alluding to the platform Instagram and WhatsApp messaging.
Last fall, Facebook rebranded itself to Meta to signal a pivot for the “Metaverse,” touted as the future of the internet, a parallel universe accessible in augmented and virtual reality.
And in late October, the company signed an agreement with Within to buy the startup and its application, which is already being used by thousands of people through Oculus VR headsets, also owned by Meta.
The amount of the transaction was not disclosed.
“Together we will explore ways to improve devices to make training in VR easier and encourage other developers to create new fitness experiences for virtual reality,” Oculus said in a statement.
“We believe the sport will be a huge hit (in the metaverse), which will enable the success of multiple third-party fitness apps.”
Meta publishes its quarterly figures on Wednesday, which are being followed closely: At the end of last year, the group lost users on Facebook for the first time and is fighting against the competition from TikTok.