Metaverse, Vestager ready to open a dossier: “Possible abuses”

Metaverse, Vestager ready to open a dossier: “Possible abuses”
In the virtual world envisioned by Facebook, there is a risk of creating dominant positions and the EU would like to examine the antitrust challenges. The focus is on “iterations”, purchases and the use of tokens

19 Jan 2022
Patrizia Licata

The future functioning of the metaverse will be the subject of careful scrutiny by the European authorities. This was indicated by the EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager in an interview with the online newspaper The executive vice-president of the European Commission said that the evolution on which Meta (Facebook) is at work, and which today represents one of the macro-trends of the digital world, will probably be at the center of a careful examination for the implications on competition. market.
For Vestager, the project to create a virtual ecosystem that encompasses multiple activities represents a new challenge for antitrust regulators.
Index of topics
• A virtual marketplace that needs to be regulated
• The replicas of the metaverse
• The case of gaming. The EU ready to move
• Oculus, viewers under investigation in the US
A virtual marketplace that needs to be regulated
The world of the metaverse announced by Mark Zuckerberg and which has become the insignia of the new Meta brand consists of a series of virtual spaces where users can interact, work, study, play, buy, enjoy content and entertainment in a digital environment that is immersed in it reflects the real one and where, therefore, an economic, and therefore competitive, parallel environment is created.
“The metaverse will present new markets and a number of different activities. A marketplace will form where some players may have a dominant position, ”Vestager said. “It is an evolution that we must be able to follow”.
The replicas of the metaverse
Vestager notes that the Meta project is not the only one of its kind and there are already numerous iterations of the metaverse, such as Decentraland and Sandbox. Many retailers are trying to win a place in the virtual world, willing to offer downloadable virtual goods in the metaverse or build stores with virtual items. There are even agencies that sell “real estate” spaces, virtual but with prices of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even the public authorities of Shanghai would like to offer services to the citizens through the metaverse.
The use of nonfungible tokens or NFTs, digital assets based on the blockchain and which will be used in the virtual economy as a bargaining chip or certificate of ownership of an asset, will also grow in the metaverse.
The case of gaming. The EU ready to move
The analysis of competition in virtual worlds starts from the gaming sector, where already “there are people who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for items that are exchanged online”, highlighted Vestager. “And in this exchange there are human intermediaries between the seller and the buyer”.
It all happens online, but there are markets that are emerging, even in other sectors, and that cannot be considered outside the rules, according to Vestager.
It is too early to define how the European antitrust will move, concluded the commissioner. But it is appropriate now to start analyzing the market that is forming. And it is likely that Brussels’ first move will be to look into areas where market abuse could be created.
Oculus, viewers under investigation in the US
The statements by Commissioner Vestager are in line with what is happening on the antitrust front in the United States, where the Federal Trade Commission (Ftc) and some states (New York, Tennessee and North Carolina) are investigating Oculus, the virtual reality division of Meta , to verify any anti-competitive practices.
The authorities want to ascertain whether or not Meta has used its market power to stifle competition in the virtual reality area.
The FTC audited external developers to see if the Oculus app store could discriminate against third parties who sell apps and compete with Meta’s software. Attention is also kept high on Meta’s sales strategy for the Oculus VR headset, whose price is lower than that of the competition.
Meta refused to comment, but the investigation could complicate the company’s plans on the metaverse: devices such as virtual and augmented reality viewers are required to access immersive digital worlds. In presenting the strategy, Zuckerberg highlighted that these devices will become a great IT platform for human communication, eventually replacing some in-person interactions.