Sales of Oculus Rift and Quest VR headsets in Germany have been unexpectedly suspended without warning, possibly over Facebook's recent decision to require Facebook logins for the hardware.
Gamesindustry.biz received confirmation from a Facebook spokesman that sales of the VR system have been halted, but gave no indication of precisely why they had chosen to do so. "We are temporarily pausing the sale of Oculus devices to consumers in Germany. We will continue supporting users who already own an Oculus device, and we're looking forward to resuming sales in Germany soon," the spokesman stated.
However, Heise Online, a German technology-centered website, has pointed out that there are regulations from the Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office) which prohibit Facebook from merging user data from different applications without voluntary consent. German courts have already ruled against Facebook twice when dealing with data merges from WhatsApp to Facebook.
More importantly, European GDPR specifically prohibits product coupling. It's illegal under the GDPR for a manufacturer selling Product A (an Oculus headset in this case) to force customers to use Product B (Facebook).
Heise Online received a statement from the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information regarding this particular move by Facebook. "From the point of view of the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HmbBfDI), the obligation to create a Facebook account is legally extremely questionable, at least for those who have already bought a headset. Whether this also applies to new customers is definitely a matter of debate. That should largely depend on the design of the contract, which we do not have," the statement read.
It went on to say, "For those users who already have a headset and who will not log in with a Facebook account after 2023, no suitable alternative to continuing to use the headset will be made available. The compulsion to use Facebook is therefore exerted on both old and new customers."
Food For Thought
Facebook previously mentioned that Oculus users who didn't use Facebook logins after 2023 would not have "full functionality." However, there hasn't been any detailed explanation of how diminished it will be. Unlike Sony's PSVR or the HTC Vive, which are peripherals to existing systems, Oculus is a full platform with its own specific releases.
It would seem Facebook lost its best chance to make the argument Oculus is a similar peripheral when they didn't immediately turn it into "Facebook VR." The GDPR may now make that argument practically impossible.