The Federal Trade Commission halted its in-house lawsuit challenging Meta Platform’s acquisition of VR developer Within Unlimited, following the agency’s failure to stop the deal in federal court.
The order withdrawing the case from FTC adjudication was signed Feb. 10 by April Tabor, Secretary of the Commission, whose office serves as the FTC’s clerk in its adjudicative proceedings.
The withdrawal suspends an evidentiary hearing scheduled before an administrative law judge for Feb. 13. But it allows the FTC to revive the challenge in front of the in-house judge further down the line, the FTC noted.
“The FTC is still deciding whether or not to continue an in-house trial before the administrative judge,” an FTC spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
It’s rare for the commission to continue with a merger challenge in-house after losing in federal court.
Judge Edward Davila of the US District Court for the Northern District of California denied Feb. 1 the FTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the deal.
The antitrust regulator alleged the acquisition would reduce “potential competition” in the burgeoning virtual reality fitness market as Meta could have instead developed its own apps to compete with Within’s popular workout app Supernatural.
Davila found that although the infrequently-used potential competition theory was legally sound, the FTC came up short in proving Meta would have otherwise entered the market.
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