Apple, Meta, Alphabet under EU’s new tech law scanner

The European Union is conducting investigations into Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet, and Meta (formerly Facebook) for potential violations of the EU’s new tech regulations aimed at monitoring anti-competitive behavior among major technology firms.

These investigations are focused on determining if the companies have breached the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which came into effect on March 7th. The DMA is designed to enhance consumer choice in online markets and could lead to substantial fines if the companies are found guilty.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is examining several areas of concern, including Apple and Google’s practices allowing app developers to direct users to offers outside their app stores, whether Alphabet favors its own services like Google Shopping in search engine results, Meta’s decision to charge users for an ad-free experience on Facebook and Instagram, and Apple’s facilitation of alternative browser choices on their phones.

The DMA mandates compliance from six major tech “gatekeepers,” including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and ByteDance (owner of TikTok), in ensuring fair competition and providing users with more options. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton warned of “heavy fines” for violations and expressed skepticism about the adequacy of measures taken by Alphabet, Apple, and Meta to meet their obligations under the DMA.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, emphasized that the companies had ample time to adapt to the new regulations and collaborate with the commission to ensure compliance. She stressed the importance of giving consumers choices and emphasized the strong penalties in place for non-compliance, including fines of up to 10% of turnover.

The investigations also extend to Apple’s new fee structure for alternative app stores and Amazon’s marketplace ranking practices. The commission aims to conclude these investigations within a year as outlined in the DMA. Experts view these investigations as a significant test for the effectiveness of the DMA, with calls for substantial fines and potential structural changes to address anti-competitive practices.

In response, Meta defended its ad-free subscription model, stating it complies with the DMA. Google highlighted its significant service changes and vowed to defend its approach, while Apple expressed confidence in its compliance with the DMA.

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