EU announces investigations into three major tech giants 

The EU has announced that it will be starting investigations into some of the largest tech corporations globally after concerns were raised about anti-competitive practices.

Meta, Apple, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are under scrutiny for potential violations of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) introduced in 2022. If found guilty, these companies could face fines of up to 10% of their annual turnover.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager and industry leader Thierry Breton jointly announced the investigations on Monday. These enquiries target six companies, which are also among the world’s largest tech firms: Alphabet, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and ByteDance. 

None of these companies are headquartered in Europe, with five based in the United States and ByteDance situated in Beijing.

This development follows the EU’s recent €1.8 billion fine on Apple for breaching competition laws related to music streaming. At the same time, the US has launched a landmark lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of monopolizing the smartphone market.

The EU’s investigations will focus on five areas of potential non-compliance:

1 & 2 – Examining whether Apple and Alphabet are impeding apps from freely communicating with users and forming contracts with them.

3 – Assessing whether Apple provides users with sufficient choice in terms of app management and default settings.

4 – Investigating whether Meta engages in unfair practices by requiring users to pay to prevent their data from being used for advertising purposes.

5 – Checking whether Google prioritizes its own products and services in search results.

The first two points center around the concept of “anti-steering,” with the EU alleging that these firms hinder apps from informing users about alternative, potentially cheaper payment methods outside of app stores’ proprietary payment systems. 

Regarding the third point, the EU says that Apple must facilitate easy app uninstallation, allow changes to default settings, and offer “choice screens” enabling users to select different browsers or search engines. 

The EU also says that Apple’s web browser “choice screen” fails to provide adequate options, and certain apps, such as Apple Photos, cannot be removed altogether.

According to Ms Vestager, the investigation will last around a year. She said: “We suspect that the suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA. We will now investigate the companies’ compliance with the DMA, to ensure open and contestable digital markets in Europe.”

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