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EU to open investigations into Apple, Meta and Google

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The EU has launched investigations into three tech giants—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Meta (formerly Facebook), and Apple—over potential violations of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) introduced in 2022.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust boss, and Thierry Breton, the industry head, announced the investigations, which could result in significant fines of up to 10% of the companies’ annual turnover if breaches are found.

These investigations come shortly after the EU fined Apple €1.8bn for competition law violations related to music streaming. Additionally, the United States recently filed a landmark lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of monopolizing the smartphone market.

In response, Apple expressed willingness to engage constructively with the investigation, asserting confidence in their compliance with the Digital Markets Act. They emphasized their efforts to adhere to EU legislation and prioritize privacy and security protections for EU users.

Similarly, Meta defended its use of subscriptions as an alternative to advertising, citing it as a well-established business model. They stated their commitment to constructive engagement with the Commission.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has also been approached for comment regarding the investigations.

The EU’s investigations will focus on five potential areas of non-compliance, including whether Apple and Alphabet restrict apps from freely communicating with users and making contracts, whether Apple limits user choice, whether Meta unfairly requires payment to avoid data use for ads, and whether Google prioritizes its own goods and services in search results.

One key issue under investigation is “anti-steering,” where the EU suspects the companies of making it challenging for apps to inform users about alternative payment methods outside of app stores. Another concern is whether Apple provides users with sufficient choice, including the ability to uninstall apps easily and change default settings.

According to Vestager, the investigations are expected to take around 12 months to complete, although Breton suggested it could take slightly longer. The goal is to ensure open and contestable digital markets in Europe by verifying compliance with the Digital Markets Act.

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