In a significant regulatory development, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concluded its separate investigations into Meta and Amazon, with both tech giants agreeing to amend how they exploit marketplace data. The CMA's inquiry centered on concerns that the companies were leveraging data to gain an unfair competitive edge.
Meta's case was particularly focused on how advertisement data from Facebook could potentially influence product recommendations on Facebook Marketplace, potentially disadvantaging competitors who also advertise on the platform. After a period of scrutiny, Meta has committed to creating an opt-out feature for advertisers, ensuring their data isn't used in a way that they haven't consented to, with particular protections for direct competitors.
The CMA's report highlighted a technical solution Meta will implement to enforce these changes, including automatic opt-outs for certain rivals and rigorous employee protocols to prevent misuse of data in product development. Though no formal ruling on antitrust infringement was made, the CMA has accepted Meta's commitments, planning to appoint a monitoring trustee to ensure compliance.
In a parallel case, Amazon faced the CMA's lens for the alleged use of third-party sellers' data to bolster its own retail strategies and prioritize its products in the coveted "buy box" section. Following the probe, Amazon vowed not to misuse non-public data from third-party sellers and to establish objective criteria for the featured offers, effectively making its platform more impartial.
Amazon will also empower third-party sellers by allowing them to independently negotiate delivery rates for Prime services, a move away from the previously restrictive arrangements. Like Meta, Amazon will be under the watch of an independent trustee appointed by the CMA to monitor adherence to the new commitments.
While these concessions are viewed as sensible and a step forward in regulating Big Tech, some experts, like former CMA legal director Tom Smith, now a partner at Geradin Partners, believe these measures don't address the core issues of the companies' dominant business models. Compliance will be challenging to monitor, and there is a sense that the concessions made are manageable for these tech behemoths without fundamentally altering their operations.
This outcome in the UK precedes more ambitious antitrust movements in the United States, where the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice are building comprehensive cases against Amazon and Google, respectively. These forthcoming actions are expected to probe deeper into the companies' business strategies and their implications for market competition.