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EU launches investigations into Apple, Meta, and Google for alleged non-compliance with DMA regulations

The European Commission has raised concerns about the companies’ potential non-compliance with its significant antitrust rules. The investigations are expected to continue for a duration of 12 months.
According to the regulator’s announcement today, the European Commission has opened five non-compliance investigations into Apple, Google, and Meta’s adherence to its new Digital Markets Act antitrust rules. “The suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA,” stated Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief. “Our investigation will focus on the companies’ adherence to the DMA, aiming to promote fair and competitive digital markets in Europe.”

The Commission intends to examine the anti-steering rules in the app stores of Google and Apple, as well as investigate whether Google is favoring its own services within its search engine. The browser choice screen for iOS from Apple is currently under investigation, along with Meta’s “pay or consent model” for ad targeting. During a press conference, the Commission announced its intention to wrap up the investigations within the coming year.

In addition, the EU regulator is also investigating the fee structure Apple has announced for distributing apps outside of the App Store, as well as examining whether Amazon is giving preferential treatment to its own products on its store. The Commission has also announced that Meta has been granted an extension of six months to ensure that Messenger can be used seamlessly with other messaging services.

“The solutions provided by Alphabet, Apple, and Meta do not seem to meet their obligations for a fairer and more open digital space for European citizens and businesses,” stated EU Commissioner Thierry Breton. If our investigation determines that there is a lack of full compliance with the DMA, gatekeepers may be subject to significant fines.

After conducting the investigation, the Commission will inform each gatekeeper about the necessary actions to address concerns, along with the regulatory measures that are being planned. If determined to be non-compliant, the Commission has the authority to impose fines on each company, potentially reaching up to 10 percent of their annual global revenue under the DMA. In cases of repeated infringement, the fines can even go up to 20 percent.

In recent weeks, the six major tech companies identified as gatekeepers under the DMA were required to begin adhering to its regulations. These requirements encompass providing customers with the ability to modify default apps and remove pre-installed applications, prohibiting gatekeepers from prioritizing their own services over competitors, and permitting the use of third-party app stores.

According to the EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, the Commission is planning to examine Apple’s compliance with regulations. There are concerns that Apple’s practices may discourage users from taking advantage of the benefits provided by the DMA.

The announcement comes in response to intense scrutiny of Apple’s compliance with the Digital Markets Act. Despite the company’s compliance with the new rules by allowing alternative app stores on iOS, it has implemented a new fee structure that critics argue may discourage developers from distributing apps outside of Apple’s App Store. Spotify criticized Apple’s compliance as utterly ridiculous, while Epic CEO Tim Sweeney labeled the changes as yet another example of malicious compliance.

EU watchdogs have also raised complaints about Meta’s “pay or consent model.” Last year, a new paid tier was introduced for Facebook and Instagram in the EU, giving users the option to pay €9.99 a month for an ad-free experience on each platform. The subscription was created as a means of obtaining user consent to collect their data in case they choose not to pay. However, the Commission has expressed concern about the limited options that Meta is providing. Last week, Meta announced that it had proposed a monthly price reduction of €5.99 for ad-free access, in an effort to address concerns raised by regulators.

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