European regulators probe Apple, Google and Meta under new digital law

The European Commission says it was investigating the companies for "non-compliance" with the Digital Markets Act.
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Posted at 7:15 AM, Mar 25, 2024

European Union regulators opened investigations into Apple, Google and Meta on Monday, in the first cases under a sweeping new law designed to stop Big Tech companies from cornering digital markets that took effect earlier this month.

The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc's executive arm, said it was investigating the companies for "non-compliance" with the Digital Markets Act.

The Digital Markets Act is a broad rulebook that targets Big Tech "gatekeeper" companies providing "core platform services" by forcing them to comply with a set of do's and don'ts, under threat of hefty financial penalties or even breaking up businesses. The rules have the broad but vague goal of making digital markets "fairer" and "more contestable" by breaking up closed tech ecosystems that lock consumers into a single company's products or services.

The commission said in a press release that it "suspects that the measures put in place by these gatekeepers fall short of effective compliance of their obligations under the DMA."

It's looking into whether Google and Apple are fully complying with the DMA's rules requiring tech companies to allow app developers to direct users to offers available outside their app stores. The commission said it's concerned the two companies are imposing "various restrictions and limitations" including charging fees that prevent apps from freely promoting offers.

Google is also facing scrutiny for not complying with DMA provisions that prevent tech giants from giving preference to their own services over rivals. The commission said it is concerned Google's measures will result in third-party services listed on Google's search results page not being treated "in a fair and non-discriminatory manner."

The commission is also investigating whether Apple is doing enough to allow iPhone users to easily change web browsers. It's also looking into Meta's option for users to pay a monthly fee for ad-free versions of Facebook or Instagram so they can avoid having their personal data used to target them with online ads.

"The Commission is concerned that the binary choice imposed by Meta's 'pay or consent' model may not provide a real alternative in case users do not consent, thereby not achieving the objective of preventing the accumulation of personal data by gatekeepers," it said.

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