What you need to know
- Facebook is being investigated in Germany for forcing a link between Oculus VR headsets and Facebook accounts.
- New Oculus hardware currently requires a Facebook account.
- 46 US states recently filed a separate lawsuit against Facebook regarding potential antitrust issues.
Facebook is under investigation for potential antitrust issues surrounding its Oculus virtual reality headsets. Germany's Federal Cartel Office, also known as the Bundeskartellamt, initiated proceedings against Facebook earlier today. The aim of the proceedings is to "examine the linkage between Oculus virtual reality products and the social network and Facebook platform" (via Tech Crunch).
Facebook announced earlier this year that Oculus headsets would require a Facebook account. Additionally, Facebook announced that it would end support for Oculus accounts in 2023, meaning that even existing hardware will eventually have to be linked to a Facebook account to fully function.
This decision was met with a vitriolic response from many inside the VR community. By linking Facebook accounts to Oculus headsets, having a Facebook account suspended can stop you from accessing your VR games and apps.
Facebook accounts can be suspended for a variety of reasons. Some of those are considered reasonable, such as banning people for abusing others online. Others, such as creating an account to use an Oculus Quest 2 and getting automatically flagged for seemingly no reason, seem less justified.
One of the most common complaints about the link is that it exists at all. Many online state that linking generally unconnected services isn't necessary and that Facebook shouldn't require new hardware to be linked to a Facebook account at all.
In our Oculus Quest 2 review, our VR expert Nick Sutrich summarized feelings many hold regarding the Facebook and Oculus connection, stating, "If you hate Facebook and don't want any part of it, here's where you get off the train."
In relation to the new antitrust investigation in Germany, Andreas Mundt, president of Germany's Federal Cartel Office, states:
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. 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.
A Facebook spokesperson responded to a request by Tech Crunch, stating, "While Oculus devices are not currently available for sale in Germany, we will cooperate fully with the Bundeskartellamt and are confident we can demonstrate that there is no basis to the investigation."
Facebook stopped selling Oculus hardware in Germany September of this year.
Facebook is also under pressure due to a separate antitrust case in the United States right now. That lawsuit accuses Facebook of suppressing competition through monopolistic practices.