EU Cracks Down on Big Tech: Apple, Meta, Alphabet Face Investigations for Potential DMA Violations

EU Cracks Down on Big Tech: Apple, Meta, Alphabet Face Investigations for Potential DMA Violations
Apple, Meta and Google to be investigated by the EU

The European Union, a powerful economic and political bloc, has announced it is taking steps towards regulating the tech giants that dominate our lives.

The European Union (EU) is flexing its regulatory muscle again, launching investigations into three tech giants – Apple, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) – for potential breaches of the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

This isn’t the first time the EU has gone after big tech. Just weeks before the DMA investigations, Apple was fined €1.8 billion for stifling competition in the music streaming market. This move highlights the EU’s increasing willingness to hold tech giants accountable.

An Apple spokesperson says the company will constructively engage with the investigation and that they’re confident that their plan complies with the Digital Markets Act.

They added that their teams established a variety of mechanisms to comply with the EU’s landmark legislation, as well as privacy and security protections for EU users.

“Throughout, we’ve demonstrated flexibility and responsiveness to the European Commission and developers, listening and incorporating their feedback,” they said.

Introduced in 2022, the DMA aims to level the playing field in the digital marketplace by establishing rules for large tech companies designated as “gatekeepers.” These investigations signal the EU’s commitment to enforcing the DMA and ensuring fair competition within the digital sphere.

The investigations focus on five key areas where the companies might be falling short of DMA compliance. This includes:

  • Restricting User Choice: The EU is looking into whether Apple makes it difficult for users to uninstall apps, change default settings, or use alternative browsers and search engines on their devices.
  • Limiting Payment Methods: The EU is investigating if Apple and Alphabet are hindering app developers from informing users about alternative payment methods outside of their app store systems.
  • Data and Advertising: The EU is examining whether Meta’s practice of requiring users to pay to avoid targeted advertising is fair.
  • Search Engine Bias: Google faces scrutiny over whether its search results prioritize its own products and services, potentially disadvantaging competitors.

These investigations could have significant consequences. Companies found guilty of violating the DMA could face hefty fines of up to 10% of their global annual revenue.

According to Ms Vestager, the investigation will take around 12 months to complete – though Mr Breton later clarified it could take slightly longer.

“We suspect that the suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA,” she said.

“We will now investigate the companies’ compliance with the DMA, to ensure open and contestable digital markets in Europe.”

The outcome of these investigations could have global implications. While focused on the EU market, the results could set a precedent for how big tech is regulated worldwide. It’s a story about striking a balance: fostering innovation and competition while protecting consumer rights and data privacy.

Dr Rupprecht Podszun, director of the Institute for Competition Law at Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, called it “a strong signal” from the EU.