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The US competition authority (FTC) announced on Wednesday that it had launched legal action against Meta (Facebook, Instagram) to prevent it from buying out Within Unlimited and its virtual reality exercise application ( VR), Supernatural.
The federal agency considers the acquisition “illegal” because it risks limiting consumer choices and driving up prices, when the social media giant is already a dominant player in the market. VR.
“Instead of playing the game of competition, Meta is trying to buy its rise to the top,” said John Newman, deputy director for competition at the FTC, quoted in a press release.
“Meta already has a successful VR fitness app, and has the capabilities to compete with Within's popular Supernatural app. But Meta chose to buy market share instead of earning it on merit. It is an illegal acquisition,” he said.
According to the agency, the operation, if it takes place, will slow down innovation in this sector.
“The FTC file is based on ideology and speculation, not on evidence,” reacted a spokesperson for the company, asked by AFP.
“The “the idea that this acquisition could harm competition in such a dynamic field (…) that connected physical exercise is simply not credible”, he elaborated.
< strong>“Existential Threat”
The Californian group is already in the crosshairs of competition regulatory authorities. It is facing numerous investigations and complaints for abuse of a dominant position in the social networking and online advertising markets.
The FTC notably accuses it of illegal monopoly on the “social networking” market. personal”.
She criticizes the group for having “illegally bought or buried new innovators when their popularity became an existential threat”, in reference to the Instagram platform and WhatsApp messaging.
< p>Last fall, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta to signal a pivot to the “metaverse,” touted as the future of the internet, a parallel universe accessible in augmented and virtual reality.
And At the end of October, the company signed an agreement with Within to buy the start-up and its application, already used by thousands of people via Oculus VR headsets, which also belongs to Meta.
The amount of the transaction has not been disclosed.
“Together, we will explore ways to improve devices to facilitate physical exercise in VR and encourage other developers to design new new fitness experiences for virtual reality,” Oculus said in a statement.
“We believe that the sport is going to be a huge success (in the metaverse), which will allow multiple third-party applications to fitness to succeed.”
Meta is due to release its quarterly results on Wednesday, which will be closely watched: in fi n last year, the group lost Facebook users for the first time and is struggling to compete with TikTok.