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EU Antitrust Charges Apple for Breaching Tech Rules, Another Probe Coming

Published: June 28, 2024
(Image: An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015.REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo)

On Monday, June 24, European Union antitrust regulators alleged that Apple breached the bloc’s rules concerning technology. 

The accusation could result in a hefty fine for the iPhone maker, which also faces another investigation into new fees imposed on application developers.

The European Commission said it had sent its preliminary findings to Apple, following an investigation launched in March. The Commission is also the EU’s antitrust and technology regulator.

The charge against Apple is the first by the Commission under its landmark Digital Markets Act. The Act seeks to control and regulate the power of Big Tech and ensure a level playing field for smaller rivals in the Union.

It has until March next year to issue a final decision.

Margrethe Vestager, EU antitrust chief, cited issues with Apple’s new terms, saying that they fell short of complying with the DMA. 

Apple can avoid a fine if it can satisfactorily address the antitrust concerns by modifying its business terms.

“As they stand, we think that these new terms do not allow app developers to communicate freely with their end users, and to conclude contracts with them,” Vestager told a conference.

Apple said it had made different changes in the past several months to comply with the DMA, after getting feedback from app developers and the Commission.

“As we have done routinely, we will continue to listen and engage with the European Commission,” the company stated in an email.

“We are confident our plan complies with the law, and estimate more than 99% of developers would pay the same or less in fees to Apple under the new business terms we created,” Apple said in its email.

The EU executive said it was also opening an investigation into the iPhone maker over its new contractual requirements for third-party app developers and app stores. 

The issue would be its core technology fee, the multi-step procedure that the users have to do, to download and install alternative app stores on iPhones.

Apple rolled out the new fees in the 27-bloc in March, which include the core technology fee to major app developers, even if they do not use any of its payment services, prompting criticism from “Fortnite” creator Epic Games and others.

Vestager also criticized Apple’s announcement last week that said it would delay the launch of its AI-powered features in the EU.

The company blamed such a delay on the DMA, while Vestager said that it seemed that Apple suggested that its AI integration may be anti-competitive.

Reuters contributed to this report.