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9th December, 2019

GVH levies big fine on Facebook

The Competition Office (GVH) has fined social media site Facebook Ft 1.2 billion, the biggest fine ever levied by the competition watchdog in a consumer protection case.

Facebook advertised its services as free of charge on its website, but the GVH said that, although clients did not have to pay directly for the service, they generated a profit for the company through their activity and data.

The slogans “free and anyone can join,” and that Facebook “will remain free” distract consumers’ attention from the consequences of their decisions to provide their data, the GVH said.

The authority said it calculated the fine based not only on the advertising revenues in Hungary paid to Facebook’s Ireland-based business, but also took into account that during the investigation the company made changes globally to the slogans on its opening page about whether the service was free, and also to the content of its help centre.

The competition authority said it is detrimental in the short and longer run for any transactional decisions if consumers believe that they can use a service for free and without risk.

The GVH noted that similar rulings have been made in the US and Europe against Facebook.

Sources regularly consulted, with abbreviations used in text: Népszabadság (N); Magyar Hírlap (MH); Világgazdaság (VG); Napi Gazdaság (NG); Magyar Nemzet (MN); Népszava (Nsz); Kossuth Rádió news (KR); nightly TV news (TV).

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