European regulators crack down on Big Tech


European regulators

WEB DESK: European regulators have launched a series of probes into Big Tech. In a latest move, the European Commission charged that Apple breached EU tech rules, known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and announced a new probe into the iPhone maker’s contractual terms.

Here are some of the actions taken by European watchdogs against big technology companies:

EUROPEAN UNION

Apple’s App Store rules breach the DMA by preventing app developers from steering consumers to alternative offers, EU antitrust regulators said on June 24, based on preliminary findings following an investigation launched in March.

The EC also said it was opening a new investigation into Apple over its new contractual requirements for third-party app developers and app stores and whether these were necessary and proportionate.

Meta META.O and Alphabet’s GOOGL.O Google are also being investigated for potential breaches of the DMA, the EC said in March.

DMA violations could result in a fine of as much as 10% of a company’s global annual turnover.

Brussels fined Apple 1.84 billion euros ($1.97 billion) on March 4, its first ever EU antitrust penalty, following a 2019 complaint from Spotify SPOT.N. Apple said it would challenge the decision in court.

Microsoft MSFT.O expects to take additional steps to resolve an EU antitrust investigation into its chat and video app Teams, a part of its Office product, even as it seems likely to get charges in the case, its President Brad Smith said on June 4.

The EC launched an investigation into Microsoft’s tying of Office and Teams last year, following a 2020 complaint by Slack, a competing workspace messaging app owned by Salesforce CRM.N.

The EC is also probing whether Microsoft is preventing customers from relying on certain security software provided by competitors, according to a document regulators sent to at least one of its rivals in January, seen by Reuters.

EU antitrust regulators said in the same month that Microsoft’s investment of more than $10 billion in ChatGPT maker OpenAI may be subject to EU merger rules.

OpenAI’s efforts to produce less factually false output from its ChatGPT chatbot are not enough to ensure full compliance with EU data rules, a task force at the bloc’s privacy watchdog said in May.

Meta added safety features to its misinformation tracking tool CrowdTangle for use during June’s European Parliament elections in an attempt to allay EU concerns that triggered an investigation in April into the impact of Meta’s decision to phase out the tool.

Facebook and Instagram are also being investigated for potential breaches of EU online content rules relating to child safety, which could lead to hefty fines, the EC said on May 16.

An advisor to Europe’s top court said on Jan. 11 the court should uphold Google’s EU antitrust fine of 2.42 billion euros ($2.60 billion). The EC fined the company in 2017 for using its own price comparison shopping service to gain an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals.

In September 2023, the EU named 22 so-called “gatekeeper” services run by Alphabet, Amazon AMZN.O, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and TikTok-owner ByteDance, giving them six months to comply with the DMA provisions meant to make it easier for European users to move between competing services.

In April, EU antitrust regulators designated Apple’s operating system for iPads as a gatekeeper under the DMA.

Meta and TikTok appealed against the gatekeeper status in November, with the latter losing a bid to suspend its designation in February. Apple said in April it would continue to constructively engage with the EC to comply with the rules.

BRITAIN

In October, Britain’s media regulator asked the CMA to investigate Amazon and Microsoft’s dominance of the UK cloud market. The CMA will complete its investigation by April 2025.

FRANCE

France’s competition watchdog said in March it had fined Google 250 million euros ($268 million) for breaches linked to EU intellectual property rules in its relationship with media publishers.

GERMANY

Google agreed to change its user data practices to end a German antitrust investigation aimed at curbing its data-driven market power, the German cartel office said in October. Google’s commitments would give users more choice on how their data is used across its platforms.

ITALY

Italy’s antitrust regulator said on June 5 it had fined Facebook and Meta 3.5 million euros ($3.75 million) for what it described as unfair commercial practices.

Last year, the agency opened a probe into Apple for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the apps market, and took measures against Meta over an alleged abuse of its position in the country, in a probe involving the rights to music posted on its platforms.

NETHERLANDS

The Dutch privacy watchdog in April recommended that government organisations should stop using Facebook as long as it is unclear what happens with personal data of users of the government’s Facebook pages.

The country’s competition regulator last year rejected Apple’s objections against fines of 50 million euros ($53.6 million) over a failure to comply with regulations aimed at limiting the dominant position of its App Store. Apple will appeal the decision in Dutch courts.

SPAIN

Spain’s data protection watchdog in May provisionally suspended two planned Meta products that were to be deployed in the EU election on Instagram and Facebook.

Read more: Apple and Meta discuss AI partnership, WSJ reports

A group representing more than 700 startups in Spain issued a complaint about Microsoft’s cloud practices to the country’s antitrust regulator in May, citing several allegedly anti-competitive practices in recent years.

You May Also Like