Europe new battleground for platform monopolies

In Apple’s current antitrust issues, the focus of the company’s legal concerns is increasingly shifting from the United States to Europe as investigations by European and UK authorities call for changes to Apple’s policies.

Meanwhile, although the company is sometimes lauded for having less monopolistic business practices than its rival, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is nonetheless in European hot water.

For both companies, pressure from competition watchdogs on the continent stems from the way Apple and Alphabet impose strict limits on how users of the platform can monetize their content, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the creators not to grant a share to the giants of Big Tech.

Since 2010, the European Commission has opened a number of antitrust investigations into Google’s activities in the bloc, alleging the company is abusing its dominant market position in violation of European competition laws.

To date, three investigations have resulted in formal charges against Alphabet, which has been fined more than €8 billion by the commission.

Read more: Dutch watchdog to probe Google’s Play Store policies

More recently, Alphabet offered to let rival ad intermediaries place ads on YouTube to answer a crucial part of an EU antitrust probe into whether the world’s biggest video platform was giving itself an unfair advantage. by restricting access to user data. And according to people familiar with the investigation, the move could allow Alphabet to settle the case without further fines, Reuters reported.

Apple’s European problem

Just when it looked like Apple’s fight against antitrust lawsuits was coming to an end, a series of recent announcements show that the case is far from closed on Apple’s App Store monetization model. ‘company.

While the years-long battle between Apple and Epic Games appears to be over, for now Apple’s restrictive App Store policies are still unclear.

Read also: Epic Files Motion to stop Google from removing Bandcamp from the Play Store

The company’s decision in 2021 to reduce the commission percentage it charges on in-app payments appears to have done little to appease app developers, who have long argued that Apple’s App Store policies are hampering competition and ultimately stifle innovation.

Related: Apple uses developer revenue to defend App Store practices

In light of these complaints, many app developers may be pleased with recent developments in Germany, where the country’s competition regulator, Bundeskartellamt, has announced it is investigating an iOS framework called App Tracking Transparency. (ATT).

Learn more: Apple app tracking rules spark German antitrust scrutiny

ATT requires third-party apps to request permission from iOS users to track their digital activity for ad targeting. The anti-competition objections stem from the fact that Apple itself is not subject to its own rules.

The Bundeskartellamt investigation will be closely watched by authorities in France and Poland, who have expressed similar concerns about how ATT is being used by Apple to erect unfair barriers for other companies.

Moving duopoly

Outside the EU, the UK competition watchdog has published its final report on an in-depth investigation into what he sees as the monopolistic practices of Big Tech mobile platforms. The report reaffirms the concerns of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about how Apple and Google are unfairly exploiting their status as guardians of the mobile ecosystem.

The report succinctly summarizes many app developers’ problems with the current state of the app store market as follows: “Apple prohibits alternate app stores and sideloading on iOS. Google allows alternatives, but the result on Android is much the same, in part because of the hardware barriers to entry and expansion faced by competing app stores.

Given that the UK government has delayed passing reforms that would give the CMA greater enforcement powers, the report acknowledges that many of the authority’s concerns are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Related: UK digital strategy must be the anti-EU regulator

In a post-Brexit regulatory twist, it looks likely that the EU will be the first to tackle mobile duopoly, a move that would force Google and Apple to change policies and take further legal action in the UK. useless.

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