Competition | EU targets Apple, Alphabet and Meta

(Brussels) The European Commission launched five procedures on Monday against Apple, Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook, Instagram) suspected of infringements of European competition rules, a first under the new digital markets regulation (DMA ).


Brussels has been in dialogue for months with the three American internet giants to help them prepare for compliance with the rules that came into force at the beginning of March.

After years of running in vain behind their abuse of a dominant position with insufficiently dissuasive legislation, the European executive hopes to finally have equipped itself with the DMA with a sufficiently powerful weapon to make them bend.

“We can already see changes in the market. But we are not convinced that the solutions proposed by Alphabet, Apple and Meta meet their obligations,” European Digital Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Monday.

The tech lobby, CCIA, immediately denounced the “rush” of Brussels. The launch of these investigations, just 18 days after the March 7 compliance deadline, “risks confirming industry fears that the process is being politicized.”

The EU wants to finally open digital markets, protect the emergence and growth of young companies in Europe and improve the choice offered to users.

The procedures announced take up well-known grievances. The European executive hopes to conclude them within a maximum period of 12 months.

The Commission is thus opening an investigation against Alphabet, suspected of having exploited the virtual monopoly of its Google search engine to favor, thanks to better referencing, its own price comparison services to the detriment of competitors in hotel searches. , plane tickets or other consumer goods sold online.

Google was already fined 2.4 billion euros in 2017 for this reason. But the proposed remedies were never considered satisfactory.

Alphabet and Apple are also being targeted for restrictions in their Google Play and App Store application stores. According to the Commission, both groups “limit the ability of developers to freely communicate and promote their offerings and to enter into contracts directly” with end users, “including by imposing various fees.”

On this issue, Apple was already fined 1.8 billion euros by the Commission at the beginning of March, following an investigation opened in June 2020 after a complaint from the music streaming platform Spotify.

Apple under pressure in the United States

On Thursday, the American government also took Apple to court for monopolistic practices due to the constraints set by the Californian group on application developers.

Brussels has opened another procedure targeting Apple suspected of not having respected the obligation to offer users a way to easily uninstall default applications on the iOS operating system which equips its famous iPhones.

The Commission is particularly concerned that “the design of the web browser choice screen prevents users from truly exercising their choice” of an alternative to Safari.

Meta, a social media giant, is being targeted for breach of the rule which requires it to request user consent in order to be able to combine personal data from its different services for advertising profiling purposes.

To comply, Meta offered Facebook and Instagram users a paid subscription that allows them to avoid being targeted by advertising. But if they want to keep a free service, they must agree to hand over their personal data.

Brussels believes that this choice “does not offer a real alternative”.

The Commission will also gather information on Amazon’s referencing system, fearing that it favors its own product brands on its e-commerce site.

It will also look into Apple’s new pricing system which could violate its obligation to allow downloads of applications from alternative stores to its App Store.

Considering themselves in compliance, the Apple, Alphabet, Meta and Amazon groups nevertheless affirmed on Monday that they would continue their dialogue with Brussels, in separate press releases.

The new regulation provides for fines of up to 20% of global turnover in the event of serious and repeated infringement (compared to 10% until now).

Brussels has also given itself the power to dismantle offenders, a weapon of deterrence and last resort.

“We will continue to use all available tools” in the event of non-compliance with DMA obligations, said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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