Germany opens antitrust probe into Facebook and Oculus account linking

Officials say tying the platforms together may 'constitute a prohibited abuse of dominance.'

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

A day after the Federal Trade Commission and 48 attorneys general filed antitrust charges against Facebook, it emerged the social media colossus is the subject of yet another investigation. Officials in Germany are looking into whether the company’s controversial move to require Oculus users to connect to a Facebook account violates competition rules.

Newcomers to Oculus now need such an account to log in. Existing customers will also be required to connect to Facebook if they want to use the virtual reality headsets in the long term. As TechCrunch reports, Germany's Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office) has "initiated abuse proceedings" against the social media giant to look into the connection between Oculus and the core Facebook platform.

"In the future, the use of the new Oculus glasses requires the user to also have a Facebook account. Linking virtual reality products and the group’s social network in this way could constitute a prohibited abuse of dominance by Facebook," the agency's president Andreas Mundt said in a statement. "With its social network Facebook holds a dominant position in Germany and is also already an important player in the emerging but growing VR (virtual reality) market. We intend to examine whether and to what extent this tying arrangement will affect competition in both areas of activity."

In 2019, the Bundeskartellamt imposed restrictions on Facebook's methods of tying user data together. It said that the company could only link someone's WhatsApp and Instagram data with their Facebook account if they give it permission to do so. Facebook appealed the measures and a court suspended the enforcement of them. Germany's federal court overturned that ruling earlier this year, but Facebook still has some legal avenues it can pursue to block the restrictions.