EU opens DMA violation probes against Apple, Google, and Meta

The European Commission today announced investigations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) into tech giants Alphabet, Apple, and Meta.

These investigations focus on potential breaches regarding steering rules and self-preferencing, particularly in Google Play, Google Search, the App Store, and Safari.

Today’s formal proceedings against Alphabet, Apple, and Meta are pursuant to Article 20 DMA, alongside Articles 13 and 29 DMA, citing breaches of specific DMA articles.

These actions follow the September 2023 designation of six gatekeepers by the Commission, requiring full DMA compliance by March 7, 2024.

Specific Concerns and Investigations

Alphabet and Apple’s Steering Rules: Investigations are underway to assess whether Alphabet and Apple have complied with DMA obligations concerning app stores.

Of particular concern are potential limitations and restrictions imposed by these companies on app developers, hindering their ability to steer consumers to offers outside the app stores, as required by DMA.

Alphabet’s Measures to Prevent Self-Preferencing: The Commission is scrutinizing Alphabet’s display of Google search results to determine if it leads to self-preferencing, particularly in comparison with similar rival services.

Apple’s Compliance with User Choice Obligations: Investigations have been initiated regarding Apple’s measures to enable user choice on iOS devices, including uninstalling applications, changing default settings, and selecting alternative default services.

Meta’s “Pay or Consent” Model: Meta’s recent introduction of the “pay or consent” model is under investigation to ascertain its compliance with DMA requirements on obtaining user consent for personal data usage.

Additional Investigatory Steps

The Commission is also investigating Amazon’s ranking practices and Apple’s new fee structure for alternative app stores. Furthermore, retention orders have been issued to several gatekeepers, requiring them to retain documents for compliance monitoring.

Recent Changes and Responses

Apple introduced changes to comply with DMA, notably in iOS 17.4, primarily affecting EU countries. Additionally, Meta offered a reduced monthly price for ad-free access to appease regulators.

Extension and Next Steps

Meta has been granted a six-month extension to comply with interoperability obligations for Facebook Messenger.

The Commission aims to conclude the investigations within 12 months. If infractions are confirmed, fines of up to 10% of the company’s total worldwide turnover may be imposed.

In cases of repeated or systematic infringements, fines may escalate up to 20%. Additional remedies such as divestiture or acquisition bans may also be enforced to address non-compliance, the press release added.

Commenting on the non-compliance investigations, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy, stated:

Today, the Commission initiates five non-compliance investigations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). They pertain to Alphabet’s rules on steering in Google Play and self-preferencing in Google Search, Apple’s rules on steering in the App Store and selecting browsers and changing defaults, and Meta’s ‘pay or consent model’.

We suspect that the proposed solutions presented by these companies may not entirely align with the DMA. We will proceed with investigations into their DMA compliance to uphold open and competitive digital markets in Europe.