Turkish Competition Authority Fines Meta Platforms USD 18.6 Million

On October 26th, the Turkish Competition Authority (“TCA”) announced that Meta Platforms Inc, Meta Ireland Limited, and WhatsApp LLC will pay TRY 346,717,193.40 for the violations of Turkish competition law.

TCA’s statement indicated that Meta Platforms held a dominant position both in personal social networking services and online video advertising markets. Resulting that, obstructing competitors by merging data collected through its services Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Investigation Background

With the decision of the Competition Board dated 11.01.2021 and numbered 21-02/25-M, an ex officio investigation regarding WhatsApp’s data policy on its users had been launched against Meta Platforms, Inc, Meta Ireland Limited, WhatsApp LLC and Madoka Turkey Bilişim Hizmetleri Ltd. Şti (collectively will be referred as “Meta”) in order to determine whether they have violated the Article 6 of the Act on the Protection of Competition numbered 4054 and dated 13.12.1994 (“the Act”).

According to WhatsApp’s new policy, the WhatsApp terms of use and privacy policy will be updated, and "users must consent to the sharing of WhatsApp data with Meta companies in order to continue using WhatsApp, otherwise they will not be able to use WhatsApp as of February 8, 2021". As such, the update involves Meta's collection, processing, and use of more data.

With that being the case, Competition Board has decided in accordance with Article 9 of the Act that Meta's conditions for the use of WhatsApp users' data for other services in Turkey as of February 8, 2021, will be suspended and Meta is obliged to inform all WhatsApp users who accepted the conditions or received the notification and did not accept the conditions that the new conditions are suspended.

The Decision of the Competition Authority

In the light of the investigation report, collected evidence, and written and oral statements TCA has decided that Meta companies (excluding Madoka Turkey) violated Article 6 of the Act stating that “The abuse, by one or more undertakings, of their dominant position in a market for goods or services within the whole or a part of the country on their own or through agreements with others or concerted practices, is illegal and prohibited.”

According to the official statement, the Board has decided that Meta has been involved in the distortion of competition by complicating the activities of its competitors operating in the online display markets with personal social networking services and preventing them to enter the market by merging the data collected from Meta's core services Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and Meta has violated the Article 6 of the Act.

Therefore, it has been decided that Meta Platforms Inc., Meta Platforms Ireland Limited, and WhatsApp LLC be fined jointly and severally in the amount of TRY 346,717,193.40 administrative fine in accordance with Article 5 of the Regulation on Fines to Apply in Cases of Agreements, Concerted Practices and Decisions Limiting Competition, and Abuse of Dominant Position

Also, TCA stated that Meta shall comply with the liabilities mentioned below:

  1. The measures to remedy the breach and to ensure effective competition in the market is established shall be submitted to the TCA within 1 (one) month of the notification of the reasoned decision,
  2. The necessary measures must be fulfilled within 6 (six) months of the notification of the reasoned decision,
  3. Reports shall be submitted to the TCA on a periodic basis (once a year) for 5 (five) years from the launch of the initial compliance measure.

According to Reuters, Meta Platforms disagreed with the Board’s decision and underlined the fact that Meta Platforms protect user privacy and provide people with transparency and control over their data. But in addition, the company stated that they will “consider all options” in related subjects after the Board’s decision.[1]

Conclusion

Turkish Competition Authority’s investigation started in 2021 against Meta companies has reached an end and TCA decided that Meta Platforms Inc, Meta Platforms Ireland Limited, and WhatsApp LLC violated the Act on the Protection of Competition numbered 4054 in Turkey. Especially Meta's core services Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp caused the distortion of competition by creating an obstacle to entry into the market for its competitors and TCA has fined Meta companies to pay approximately USD18.6 million in administrative fines. With that being said, Meta Platforms can object to a decision within 60 days starting from the notice of the reasoned decision. If Meta Platforms decides to object to the final decision, we will update you on how TCA will respond.

 

With thanks to Buket Özkan for her assistance on this article.

 


[1] https://www.reuters.com/technology/turkish-competition-board-fines-meta-platforms-186-million-2022-10-26/