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EU has its eyes on competition, antitrust in the metaverse

competition commissioner eu margrethe vestager

Europe’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has her eye on metaverse competition. At a conference earlier today, she noted that previously it had been too slow to react to events as the economy becomes more digital. She wondered what competition should look like in the metaverse.

“We need to anticipate and plan for change, given the obvious fact that our enforcement and legislative process will always be slower than the markets themselves,” she said. ” For example, it is already time for us to start asking what healthy competition should look like in the Metaverse, or how something like ChatGPT may change the equation.”

She mentioned the Digital Markets Act, which came into force late last year and aims to regulate gatekeepers of substantial online platforms. 

“Clearly there is something that is better than breaking a business up, and that is making sure that markets don’t tip in the first place,” said Verstager. “This is why merger control also plays an important role. In the last few years, the scrutiny of tech mergers has certainly increased.”

Late last year, four academics unveiled the Metaverse Competition Agency. One of the founders wrote the book, “Blockchain + Antitrust”.

Arguably the latest fascination with the metaverse was triggered by a combination of COVID and Facebook’s rebranding to Meta. This explains one of the reasons the sector is likely to stay on the radar of regulators.

Meta is involved in multiple accelerators, including in Europe with L’Oreal in France and Telefonica in Spain, ensuring its technology gets used by promising startups. It wants to control the hardware as Apple does for mobile phones. And avoid something similar to Apple’s impact on Meta’s revenue when it restricted user tracking across apps.

One of the keys to ensuring competition is interoperability, something that Mark Zuckerberg frequently mentioned in the rebrand announcement in 2021. But to make separate metaverse’s interoperable avatar and identity will need to be portable. That’s the aim of one of the startups it’s working with, Gamium.

With this convenience of portable avatars comes the risk of data proliferating across the internet even greater than the data leaked through browser cookies. 

Image Copyright: European Commission