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EU launches mass DMA violation probes against Apple, Google, and Meta

European Union flag with App Store logo superimposed

Using its new powers under the Digital Markets Act, the European Union has announced sweeping probes into US Big Tech, including multiple investigations of Apple.

As of early March 2024, Apple has enabled the creation of third-party rivals to its own App Store, specifically and solely because it has been forced to under the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA). As part of that same DMA, the EU now has the authority and regulatory powers to investigate qualifying firms and, if it sees fit, apply steep fines for any perceived breaches of the law.

Now the EU has formally announced the start of several such investigations, covering Apple, Meta, and Google's parent company Alphabet, with some elements also pertaining to Amazon's dealings with some of these firms. For Apple, the investigation covers:

  • App Store steering rules
  • Browser choice screen
  • Apple's new fee structure for alternative app stores

"Today, the Commission opens five non-compliance investigations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA)," said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy. "We suspect that the suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA."

The EU's announcement says that this suspicion of the companies failing to comply with the laws, follows its own analysis of compliance measures, but also "feedback from stakeholders." While not named, those stakeholders will include the likes of Spotify and Epic Games, who have both publicly reported having complained to the EU.

In a statement to AppleInsider and other venues, the company says that it is in compliance with the new law.

"We're confident our plan complies with the DMA, and we'll continue to constructively engage with the European Commission as they conduct their investigations. Teams across Apple have created a wide range of new developer capabilities, features, and tools to comply with the regulation. At the same time, we've introduced protections to help reduce new risks to the privacy, quality, and security of our EU users' experience.

Throughout, we've demonstrated flexibility and responsiveness to the European Commission and developers, listening and incorporating their feedback."

The EU's next steps

Apple, and all Big Tech "gatekeepers" have now also been ordered to retain certain documentation that can be used to monitor the effectiveness of their implementation of the DMA regulations.

"The Commission has opened proceedings against Apple regarding their measures to comply with obligations to enable end users to easily uninstall any software applications on iOS, easily change default settings on iOS," says the EU, "and 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."

This investigation into Apple has officially started on March 25, and the EU says that it aims to conclude all such probes within 12 months. After that, it will inform Apple and the others of the steps it will require them to take in order to remedy any perceived non-compliance.

The EU is empowered to impose one-off fines of up to 10% of a company's worldwide turnover — and 20% for repeated infringements. The European Commission can also force companies to sell off their businesses, or part of them.