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European Union Investigates Apple, Google and Meta under Digital Markets Act

Breaches could result in fines of up to 10 per cent of the companies' global annual turnover

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on March 26, 2024, 16:28:51

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Apple, Google, Meta, European Union, Digital Markets Act

Apple, Google and Meta Platforms are under scrutiny for potential violations of the EU's new Digital Markets Act (DMA), European antitrust regulators announced on Monday.

This could lead to substantial fines for these tech giants. The law, in effect since March 7, seeks to challenge the dominance of these companies by facilitating easier transitions between competing online services, such as social media platforms, internet browsers and app stores, ultimately fostering an environment for smaller companies to compete.

Breaches could result in fines of up to 10 per cent of the companies' global annual turnover. Concurrently, US antitrust regulators are also investigating Big Tech for alleged anti-competitive practices, potentially leading to divestitures.

Tech companies claim to have allocated significant resources to meet the Digital Markets Act's requirements, particularly concerning the designation of six "gatekeepers." However, the European Commission expressed doubts about the adequacy of their efforts, as reported by Reuters.

In response to queries about the rapidity of the investigations post the act's implementation, EU industry chief Thierry Breton emphasised the importance of upholding the law promptly, stating, "The law is the law. We can't just sit around and wait."

The investigation centres on whether Apple complies with obligations regarding the uninstallation of software applications, changing default settings and providing choice screens for rival services on its iOS operating system.

Additionally, regulators are concerned about "steering," assessing whether Apple limits app developers from informing users about offers outside its App Store.

Apple expressed confidence in its compliance with the DMA, highlighting its responsiveness to the Commission and developers' feedback.

The Commission highlighted Apple and Alphabet's fee structures, stating they contradict the DMA's "free of charge" requirement, particularly as both companies recently introduced new fees for some services.

Breton urged Meta to offer free alternative options, following criticism of its no-ads subscription service introduced in Europe.

Google and Meta stated their commitment to comply with the act's guidance, with Google asserting significant changes to its services and readiness to defend its approach.

The Commission is also investigating Apple's new fee structure for alternative app stores and Amazon's ranking practices on its marketplace.

Amazon, designated as a DMA "gatekeeper," affirmed its compliance with the act and ongoing collaboration with the European Commission.

The EU executive aims to conclude investigations within a year, as outlined under the DMA, directing companies to retain relevant documents for current and future probes.

These investigations follow mounting criticism from app developers and business users regarding perceived shortcomings in the companies' compliance efforts.

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