(Corrects to say Thursday not Friday in the first paragraph)

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Facebook owner Meta will contest EU antitrust charges at a closed hearing on Thursday in a bid to stave off a possible hefty fine after regulators charged it with tying its classified advertisements service to its social network, people familiar with the matter said.

The European Commission sent a charge sheet to the world’s most popular social network last December, singling out two practices that showed that Meta abused its market power.

It said Meta’s tying of its online classified ads service Facebook Marketplace with its social network Facebook gave the former an unfair advantage.

It also took issue with Meta’s unfair trading conditions imposed on rival online classified ads services which advertise on Facebook or Instagram.

Meta declined to comment on the hearing during which senior Commission antitrust officials and their peers from national watchdogs will be present to hear its arguments.

“The claims made by the European Commission are without foundation. We will continue to work with regulatory authorities to demonstrate that our product innovation is pro-consumer and pro-competitive,” Meta’s lawyer, Tim Lamb, said in a statement.

The company could face a fine up to 10% of its global turnover and an order to change its business practices if found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules. It had previously sought to settle the case, people familiar with the matter had told Reuters.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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