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    First DMA probes target Apple, Meta and Google

    The European Union has announced that it would initiate investigations into Apple, Google, and Meta Platforms under the new Digital Markets Act (DMA), signaling a significant move to regulate the dominance of major tech firms. Enacted on March 7, the DMA seeks to diminish the stronghold of these tech giants by facilitating user transition across competing online services such as social media, internet browsers, and app stores, thereby encouraging competition from smaller entities.

    These investigations could lead to substantial penalties, with fines reaching up to 10% of the companies’ global annual revenue for any infringements. This action aligns with efforts by U.S. antitrust regulators to address alleged anti-competitive behaviors by Big Tech, which could result in the restructuring or division of these corporations.

    Despite claims from these tech companies of extensive preparations to meet DMA requirements—including deploying thousands of engineers to ensure compliance—the European Commission expressed concerns that the efforts might not fully adhere to the DMA’s standards. This skepticism was confirmed by EU industry chief Thierry Breton, who emphasized the importance of immediate compliance with the law, dismissing suggestions that the Commission was hastening the investigative process.

    Specifically, the investigations will scrutinize whether Apple’s practices align with DMA obligations, including the ease of uninstalling apps, changing default settings on iOS, and the possibility for users to switch to alternative browsers or search engines. The issue of “steering,” where Apple may restrict app developers from promoting external offers, is also under review. Both Apple and Alphabet are being investigated for potentially favoring their own services over competitors’ and introducing fee structures that may contravene the DMA’s principles.

    Meta’s recent launch of a subscription service offering an ad-free experience, which has faced backlash from competitors and consumers, is another focus area. The company argues that this model is a legitimate response to regulatory requirements, including the DMA.

    Additionally, the European Commission is probing Apple’s fee policies for alternative app stores and Amazon’s marketplace ranking practices. Amazon, another designated “gatekeeper” under the DMA, has asserted its compliance and ongoing cooperation with the Commission.

    With the EU aiming to conclude these investigations within a year, the tech giants have been instructed to preserve relevant documents for review.

    Author

    author avatar
    Afzal Rawuther

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