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EU probes Google, Apple, Meta over potential breach of digital market rules

EU probes Google, Apple, Meta over potential breach of digital market rules
March 25
14:36 2024

The European Union (EU) says it has opened five non-compliance investigations against Alphabet (Google parent company), Apple, and Meta, over uncompetitive practices.

The EU, in a statement on Monday, said the companies will be probed for potential breaches of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) introduced in 2022.

The union said it will investigate five different possible acts of non-compliance. 

The economic bloc also said it will probe whether Apple and Alphabet are preventing apps from freely communicating with users and make contracts with them. 

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In addition, the commission said it will look into whether Apple is not giving users enough choice, whether Meta is unfairly demanding individuals to pay to avoid their data being used for advertisements, and whether Google prefers the firm’s own goods and services in search results.

Speaking on the issue, Margrethe Vestager, EU’s vice-president in charge of competition policy, said the investigations concern Alphabet’s rules ‘on steering’ in Google Play and self-preferencing in Google search.

The probe, according to Vestager, also concerns Apple’s rules on steering in the App Store and on choosing browsers and changing defaults, and Meta’s ‘pay or consent model’. 

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“We suspect that the suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA,” she said.

“We will now investigate the companies’ compliance with the DMA, to ensure open and contestable digital markets in Europe.”

On his part, Thierry Breton, commissioner for internal market, said the EU has been in discussions with gatekeepers for months to help them adapt, “and we can already see changes happening on the market”. 

“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,” he said. 

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Breton added that if investigation concludes that there is lack of full compliance with the DMA, gatekeepers could face heavy fines.

Meanwhile, the commission said it intends to conclude the proceedings within 12 months. 

If warranted following the investigation, the EU said it will inform the concerned gatekeepers of its preliminary findings and explain the measures it is considering taking or the gatekeeper should take in order to effectively address the its concerns. 

In case of an infringement, the commission said it may impose fines up to 10 percent of the companies’ entire worldwide turnover. 

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The EU said such fines could increase to 20 percent in case of repeated infringement.

The commission added that in case of systematic infringements, it may also adopt additional remedies. 

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Six companies have obligations under the DMA, EU said, including Alphabet, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft and ByteDance.

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