German cartel office extends probe of ties between Facebook and Oculus

FILE PHOTO: An attendee uses a Facebook Spaces virtual reality app on an Oculus Go headset during Facebook Inc's annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S. May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s antitrust regulator said on Thursday it was extending the scope of its abuse proceedings against Facebook related to the links between its Oculus virtual reality products and the social media network.

The move comes after legislation took effect earlier this month that sets new rules for “undertakings of paramount significance for competition across markets”, the Federal Cartel Office said in a statement.

“An ecosystem which extends across various markets – an almost unchallengeable position of economic power – is particularly characteristic in this respect,” cartel office chief Andreas Mundt said in a statement.

“In view of Facebook’s strong market presence with the eponymous social network, WhatsApp and Instagram such a position may be deemed to exist. This is the first case in which we are putting the new provisions to use,” he added.

Although antitrust oversight in the European Union lies chiefly in the purview of its Brussels-based executive, Mundt has taken an activist approach towards Facebook and what he considers as abuse of its market dominance.

Mundt issued an order in February 2019 to curb Facebook’s collection of data from users, triggering a prolonged court battle that continues.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; editing by Thomas Seythal and Maria Sheahan