Science & Tech

Apple, Meta and Google parent company investigated by EU-TGN

Apple, Meta and Google’s parent company are being investigated by the European Union under new laws designed to clamp down on the market power of the world’s tech giants.

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) came into force at the beginning of March and aims to tackle “gatekeeping” behaviour among tech giants.

If the companies are found guilty of non-compliance, they face fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.

Under the new rules, companies are expected to allow app developers to steer users to products outside their own platforms for no extra charge.

Also, platforms that rank search results must treat all listings fairly and in a way that does not discriminate against services offered by third parties.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said it was concerned that Apple and Alphabet, which owns Google, had imposed restrictions that made it difficult for developers to promote services by other companies on Google or the app store.

It is looking into search results for services such as Google Shopping and Google Flights.

Regulators are also considering whether Apple is allowing users to easily uninstall software applications and change default settings, browsers and search engines on its iOS operating systems.

The commission’s main issue with Meta, the owner of Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram, surrounds the firm’s new “pay or consent” subscription model for EU users, and whether this complies with its new requirement over the use of personal data.

Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for internal market, said the commission had been in talks with the companies for months.

“We can already see changes happening on the market,” he said.

“But we are not convinced that the solutions by Alphabet, Apple and Meta respect their obligations for a fairer and more open digital space for European citizens and businesses.

“Should our investigation conclude that there is lack of full compliance with the DMA, gatekeepers could face heavy fines.”

The investigation is the latest in a series of clampdowns against tech giants, which are increasingly wrangling with regulators over anti-competitiveness concerns and the use of personal data, particularly in Europe.

Apple was ordered to pay a bigger-than-expected fine of €1.8bn at the start of the month, after the company was accused by the commission of “abusing its dominant position in the market” for the distribution of music streaming apps to iOS users through its app store.

A spokesperson for Apple said it was confident it was complying with the DMA and that it would engage with the European Commission in its investigation.

Google, which has made significant changes to its services, said it would “continue to defend its approach” in the coming months.

A Meta spokesperson said the company was working to comply with the EU rules.

“Subscriptions as an alternative to advertising are a well-established business model across many industries, and we designed ‘subscription for no ads’ to address several overlapping regulatory obligations, including the DMA,” they said.

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