Social media giant Meta has pledged not to use competitors’ advertising data for its Facebook Marketplace online classified ad service.

Facebook Marketplace is a feature in the Facebook app and on desktops and tablets that allows users to post or browse classified ads items for sale.

The promise follows an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched in June 2021.

Under the proposed commitments, Meta will take steps to restrict the use of ad data for development of other Meta products made available in the UK in competition with advertisers.

It says it will make the changes by implementing new technical systems and training for staff.

The CMA launched its investigation two years ago into arrangements which appear to enable Meta to use certain ad data from businesses using its advertising services to develop and improve Meta’s own products in competition with those advertising customers.

For example, data derived from users’ engagement with ads on Facebook could provide Meta with knowledge as to whether a user is interested in a particular product such as trainers, which could then in turn feed into a decision to show listings for shoes to that same user when it opens the Facebook Marketplace tab.

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The CMA’s preliminary view is that the offer from Meta addresses its competition concerns and the CMA is now consulting on the commitments put forward before deciding whether to accept them.

A monitoring trustee will be appointed to oversee the technical changes and training. They will provide the CMA with reports on Meta’s compliance and report any failures.

Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said: “Where we identify potential competition concerns about a company’s practices or conduct, we look to see how our powers can be best used to have a positive impact on the market.

“Reducing the risk of Meta unfairly exploiting the data of businesses who advertise on its platform for its own competitive advantage could help many UK businesses who advertise there.

“We are now consulting on these commitments which we believe, at this stage, will address our concerns.”

Meta collects data from its digital advertising services, which enable advertising to Meta’s users of Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

Meta is by far the largest supplier of digital display advertising in the UK, earning £4-5 billion from UK advertising in 2021.

Meta is seen by advertisers as an important advertising channel because of its significant reach and capabilities, including its extensive and granular source of data on users.

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Globally, more than 200 million businesses use Meta’s apps every month to reach customers and grow. Meta has more than 10 million active advertisers across its services, the majority of whom are small and medium-sized businesses.

The CMA is now consulting on Meta’s proposed commitments. If they are accepted, this would avoid having to pursue a potentially lengthy investigation and leads to earlier changes that would benefit businesses and consumers. The CMA has not made any finding at this stage of the investigation that competition law has been infringed.

The consultation is now open and will close on June 26, 2023.