Apple, Meta Likely To Face EU Antitrust Charges

Apple and Facebook parent Meta Platforms are likely to face EU antitrust charges before the summer under the new Digital Markets Act (DMA) aimed at curbing the market power of the biggest tech firms and increasing competition, according to multiple reports.

The European Commission launched probes into the two companies along with Google in March, less than a month after the new rules came into effect, and considers Apple and Meta priority cases, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources. The Financial Times earlier reported the likelihood of charges against Apple.

The Commission is likely to deliver preliminary findings, similar to antitrust charges, before the summer break in August, with Apple the first to be charged, followed by Meta, Reuters reported.

A final decision is expected before EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager leaves office in November and companies can offer remedies to address the EU’s concerns before then, the report said.

Image credit: European Commission

App store ‘steering’

“We suspect that the suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA,” said Vestager in March, announcing the probes.

Regulators said at the time they were investigating the issue of “steering”, or whether Apple is illegally limiting developers from informing users about ways to pay less for services outside of Apple’s App Store.

They said they were also looking into whether Apple allows users to easily uninstall iOS applications, change iOS default settings and access choice screens enabling them to switch to a rival browser or search engine on iPhones.

The Commission said in April it was evaluating proposed modifications to Apple’s compliance plan that would allow developers to provide users with more information on alternative payment options, but left in place a new system of fees that angered many developers.

“We’re confident our plan complies with the DMA, and we’ll continue to constructively engage with the European Commission as they conduct their investigations,” Apple said in an earlier statement.

Meta probe

The Commission said in March that its Meta probe focuses on the company’s paid offering that removes ads, saying the offering was not sufficient to comply with the DMA and that the company should introduce a free alternative to users providing Meta with personal details to be used in advertising.

Meta said it was endeavouring to comply with DMA guidance and said subscriptions as an alternative to advertising were a “well-established business model”.

The Google investigation focuses on whether the company illegally favours its own app store.

The DMA requires the largest tech companies to allow more space for smaller rivals to compete and also includes interoperability requirements so that users can switch to alternate providers in services such as social media, browsers and app stores.

Companies who fail to comply can be hit with large fines.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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