Meta received the green light from a court on Wednesday to buy virtual reality (VR) startup Within Unlimited, according to the Bloomberg news agency, but the US competition authority (FTC), opposed to the acquisition, could appeal the decision.
The federal agency had launched legal proceedings against Meta (Facebook, Instagram) at the end of July, considering that the operation was “illegal” because it would risk limiting consumer choices and driving up prices, while the social media giant is already a dominant player in the VR market.
According to Bloomberg, a judge in San Jose, Calif., denied the FTC’s request to block the transaction until the case is resolved.
But he also imposed on Meta to wait a week before concluding the operation, in case the authority appeals.
At the end of 2021, when Facebook became Meta to signal a pivot towards the “metaverse” (parallel universe accessible in particular in augmented and virtual reality), the Californian group had reached an agreement with Within to buy the start-up and its exercise application. physics in VR, Supernatural.
It is already used by thousands of people via Meta VR headsets.
The FTC “has attempted to define an extremely narrow market for virtual reality fitness apps. But this definition overlooks the fact that VR headsets can compete with game consoles, such as Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox,” said commented the CCIA (Computer & Communications Industry Association) in a press release.
Matt Schruers, the president of this professional association, welcomed this court decision which “encourages innovation and investment”.
“Meta already has a successful VR fitness app, and has the capabilities to compete with Within’s popular app, Supernatural. But Meta chose to buy market share instead of gaining it on merit,” said John Newman, deputy director for competition at the FTC, quoted in a statement in July.
“Instead of playing the game of competition, Meta is trying to buy its rise to the top,” he added.
This authority attack echoes the acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram by Mark Zuckerberg’s group.
“The idea that this acquisition could harm competition in a field as dynamic (…) as connected physical exercise is simply not credible,” reacted a spokesperson for Meta last summer.
The group did not respond to requests from AFP on Wednesday.