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Google, Meta and Apple under investigation by the European Commission

Non-compliance proceedings were initiated by the European Commission on 25 March 2024 against Alphabet (owner of Google), Meta and Apple to determine the extent to which provisions of the DMA have been complied with. DMA (or Digital Markets Act) is an EU regulation that aims to shape the digital economy by introducing a higher degree of competition between companies. The cornerstone of the regulation is that companies with considerable power in the digital sphere (called ‘gatekeepers’) should not take advantage of their dominant position on the market, thus allowing smaller companies to enter the market. The regulation is aimed at the tech giants that dominate a large part of the digital market.

The DMA became applicable in May 2023 outlining several compliance standards for gatekeepers. Upon launch, the Commission identified 6 key gatekeepers, who had to comply with the DMA regulation until 7 March 2024. As the deadline passed, the commission assessed its compliance report, and it has started to investigate Apple, Google, and Meta, as their measures are thought to fall short of compliance with the DMA.

One of the issues is that the app store maintained by Apple and Google Play Store, which, according to the Commission, does not allow independent developers to ‘steer’ customers outside of the gatekeeper app store. This practice could mean a breach of DMA regulations. Another questionable practice is that Google’s search page might be self-preferencing compared to other third-party services. This could mean an unfair and non-discriminatory treatment preventing new players from entering the playfield. The Commission is also investigating whether Meta’s new practice complies with the DMA. Recently Meta started to offer users on its various platforms the “pay or consent” model. This could mean that users do not have a real alternative, which is against the objective of the DMA.

The Commission intends to close the investigation in a year. In case of non-compliance, the tech giants can be fined up to 10% (20% in case of repeated infringement) of their total worldwide turnover.