The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is now investigating Meta's acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR in 2014 for potential antitrust violations, Bloomberg reported on Friday, as part of the FTC's broader probe of the social networking giant over its history of buying fast-growing startups to squash potential competition.
The FTC last year filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company, formerly known as Facebook, over its acquisition practices, including its purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp. That lawsuit was initially dismissed, but this week a judge ruled it should go forward. A revised suit overseen by FTC chair Lisa Khan sharpened the FTC's argument against Meta and narrowed in on the markets the agency accuses the company of monopolizing.
Now, the agency has begun interviewing VR developers over how Meta's Oculus Store treats third-party app makers and whether the company prioritizes its own software and prices its headsets to undercut competition. Meta's brand of wireless headsets and its software marketplace and platform are pillars of its new metaverse ambitions, as the company sees virtual apps and games as a lucrative future for the internet once it evolves beyond the mobile web.
Through the Oculus brand, which the company has begun phasing out in favor of using its new metaverse-themed branding, Meta has acquired several successful VR game makers and also now dominates the VR hardware market with more than 75% of global headset sales, Bloomberg reports.
The FTC, in conjunction with state agencies in New York, Tennessee and North Carolina, is now probing these activities for antitrust violations, seeking to establish whether Meta's acquisition history, software marketplace policies or pricing strategy may be harming competition in the VR market.
Like Apple and Google, Meta firmly controls what kinds of apps are sold on the Oculus Store and takes a 30% cut of most sales and has often released new features and apps that come into direct competition with the products of third-party developers, some of whom have complained to investigators that their businesses were crushed by Oculus' tactics.