The European Commission opened non-compliance investigations Monday against Google parent company Alphabet, Apple and Meta under the EU’s new Digital Markets Act. The three online services could face heavy fines if found to have breached the Digital Markets Act (DMA), with the opejing of probes into Alphabet’s rules on steering in Google Play and self-preferencing on Google Search, Apple’s rules on steering in the App Store and the choice screen for Safari and Meta’s ‘pay or consent model’.

The EU executive says it suspects that the measures put in place by these Internet ‘gatekeepers’ fall short of effective compliance of their obligations under the DMA. The Commission has also launched investigatory steps relating to Apple’s new fee structure for alternative app stores and Amazon’s ranking practices on its marketplace. The gatekeepers have been ordered to retain certain documents to monitor the effective implementation and compliance with their obligations. The Commission has been in discussion with the parties for some month, but, says EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, “we are not convinced that the solutions by Alphabet, Apple and Meta respect their obligations for a fairer and more open digital space for European citizens and businesses.”

Part of the DMA requires gatekeepers to allow app developers to “steer” consumers to offers outside the gatekeepers’ app stores, free of charge. The Commission is concerned that Alphabet’s and Apple’s measures may not be fully compliant as they impose various restrictions and limitations. These constrain, among other things, developers’ ability to freely communicate and promote offers and directly conclude contracts, including by imposing various charges.

Proceedings against Alphabet are aimed at determining whether Alphabet’s display of Google search results may lead to self-preferencing in relation to Google’s vertical search services (e.g., Google Shopping; Google Flights; Google Hotels) over similar rival services.Compliance with the DMA includes ensuring that third-party services featuring on Google’s search results page are treated in a fair and non-discriminatory manner in comparison with Alphabet’s own services.

Proceedings against Apple concern their measures to comply with obligations to (i) enable end users to easily uninstall any software applications on iOS, (ii) easily change default settings on iOS and (iii) prompt users with choice screens which must effectively and easily allow them to select an alternative default service, such as a browser or search engine on their iPhones. Apple’s measures, including the design of the web browser choice screen, may be preventing users from truly exercising their choice of services within the Apple ecosystem.

Finally, proceedings against Meta involve a recently introduced “pay or consent” model for users in the EU complies, as the DMA requires gatekeepers to obtain consent from users when they intend to combine or cross-use their personal data across different core platform services. 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.

Source: EUbusiness

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