Tech and Science

EU launches investigation into Meta, Apple and Alphabet under sweeping new technology law

European Commission Executive Vice-President for a Europe Ready for the Digital Age (Competition), Margrethe Vestager, holds a press conference on “Apple on App Store Rules for Music” in Brussels, Belgium, April 30, 2021. Streaming provider”. Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Dursun Aydemir | Anadolu | Getty Images

The European Union launched an investigation into Apple, Alphabet and Meta on Monday as part of its first investigation under the Digital Markets Act’s sweeping new technology legislation.

“Today, the Commission opened a non-compliance investigation under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) into Alphabet’s Google Play governance rules and Google Search self-preference rules, Apple’s App Store governance rules and the Safari choice screen Meta’s ‘pay-or-consent model,'” the commission said in a statement.

The first two investigations focus on Alphabet and Apple and relate to so-called “anti-steering rules”. Under the DMA, tech firms are not allowed to prevent companies from telling their users about cheaper options for their products or about subscriptions outside of an app store.

“The way Apple and Alphabet have implemented the DMA anti-steering rules appears to be at odds with the letter of the law. “Apple and Alphabet will continue to charge various recurring fees and continue to restrict steering,” EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said during a press conference on Monday.

Apple has already violated EU regulations in this regard. This month the company was fined 1.8 billion euros ($1.95 billion) after the European Commission found that Apple had imposed restrictions on app developers that prevented them from using iOS Inform users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app.

The third study focuses on alphabet. The European Commission said it was examining whether Alphabet’s display of Google search results “could lead to self-favoring of other Google services, such as Google Shopping, over similar competing services.”

The fourth investigation focuses on Apple. The commission said it is investigating whether the company complied with its obligations under the DMA to ensure that users can easily uninstall apps on iOS and easily change default settings on iOS. The investigation also focuses on whether Apple actively offers users choices that allow them to change default services on iOS, such as the web browser or search engine.

The commission said it was “concerned that Apple’s actions, including the design of the web browser selection screen, may prevent users from actually exercising their choice of services within the Apple ecosystem.”

The fifth and final investigation focuses on Meta and its so-called “Pay and Consent” model. Last year, Meta launched an ad-free subscription model for Facebook and Instagram in Europe. The Commission is examining whether offering the subscription model without advertising or requiring users to agree to the terms and conditions of the free service violates the DMA.

“The Commission is concerned that the binary choice imposed by Meta’s pay-or-consent model may not provide a real alternative if users do not consent, thereby failing to achieve the objective of preventing the accumulation of personal data by gatekeepers .”

Thierry Breton, EU Internal Market Commissioner, said during a press conference that Meta should offer “free alternative options” for its services that are “less personalized.”

Gatekeepers are large technology companies that are obliged to comply with the DMA in the EU.

“We will continue to use all available tools should a gatekeeper attempt to circumvent or undermine the DMA’s obligations,” Vestager said.

This is breaking news, check back later for more.

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