With a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hanging over its head, Facebook’s parent company Meta is pausing its planned acquisition of the virtual reality (VR) experience and product developer Withinwhich is known for the popular fitness app Supernatural.
Meta’s lawyers and FTC representatives are planning to hold a scheduling conference next week to further discuss the situation, Bloomberg reported on Friday (Aug. 5).
Facebook has acquired over 100 smaller firms in the past 10 years, and this is the first time the FTC took a precautionary step to challenge an acquisition by the social media giant, according to Bloomberg, citing a 2020 congressional report.
The lawsuit launched by the FTC last week seeks to block the $400 million acquisition deal from proceeding, alleging that CEO Mark Zuckerberg was seeking to make an illegal acquisition to expand Meta’s virtual reality empire.
The FTC said that the acquisition of a dedicated fitness app “proves the value of virtual reality to users,” according to an FTC press release July 27.
See also: FTC: Meta Trying to Buy Its Way to Top of VR Space With Proposed Within Acquisition
The FTC said that Meta has the biggest catalog of VR devices and is among the leading provider of apps in the US, PTMNTS reported last week. The FTC alleged in the suit that the company started its quest to conquer VR when it purchased headset manufacturer Oculus VR in 2014 for $2 billion.
“Instead of competing on the merits, Meta is trying to buy its way to the top,” said FTC Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman.
“Meta already owns a best-selling virtual reality fitness app, and it had the capabilities to compete even more closely with Within’s popular Supernatural app. But Meta chose to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits. This is an illegal acquisition, and we will pursue all appropriate relief,” Newman added.
Read more: FTC Lawsuit Shows Faith in Meta’s Trillion-Dollar Metaverse Ambitions
Nikhil Shanbhag, Meta vice president and associate general counsel, competition and regulatory, said in a blog posts that the FTC’s lawsuit is “based on ideology and speculation, not evidence.”
Shanbhag accused the FTC of being “wrong on the facts and the law.”