EU Commissioner for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age - Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (R) and the EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton lead in the fight against big tech. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


European regulators crack down on Big Tech


European regulators have launched a series of probes into Big Tech. In the latest, Apple AAPL.O, Meta Platforms META.O and Alphabet’s GOOGL.O Google could receive hefty fines by the end of the year over alleged breaches, including disparaging rival products on their platforms.

Here are some of the actions taken by European watchdogs against big technology companies:

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram have failed to tackle disinformation and deceptive advertising in the run-up to European Parliament elections, the European Commission said in April as it opened an investigation into suspected breaches of EU online content rules.

Apple, Meta Platforms and Google will be investigated for potential breaches of the European Union‘s Digital Markets Act (DMA), EU antitrust regulators said on March 25. Violations could result in fines of as much as 10 per cent of the companies’ global annual turnover.

The Commission declined to comment. Apple, Meta and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In September 2023, the EU picked out 22 so-called “gatekeeper” services run by Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and TikTok owner ByteDance, giving them six months to comply with the provisions of the DMA, legislation meant to make it easier for European users to move between competing services.

In April, EU antitrust regulators designated Apple’s operating system for iPads as a gatekeeper under the DMA.

Meta Platforms and ByteDance’s TikTok both appealed against the “gatekeeper” status in November, with the latter losing a bid to suspend its designation in February. Apple said in April it would continue to constructively engage with the European Commission to comply with its tech rules.

Brussels fined Apple AAPL.O €1.84 billion on March 4, the iPhone maker’s first-ever EU antitrust penalty, following a 2019 complaint from Spotify SPOT.N. Apple criticised the EU decision, saying it would challenge it in court.

An advisor to Europe’s top court said on January 11 that the court should uphold Google’s EU antitrust fine of €2.42 billion. The European Commission fined the company in 2017 for using its own price comparison shopping service to gain an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals.

The European Commission is probing whether Microsoft MSFT.O is preventing customers from relying on certain security software provided by its competitors, according to a document that regulators sent to at least one rival of the company in January, seen by Reuters.

EU antitrust regulators said in the same month Microsoft’s investment of more than $10 billion in ChatGPT maker OpenAI may be subject to EU merger rules, after a similar warning from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last December.

Last November, EU antitrust regulators asked Microsoft’s rivals whether the U.S. software giant’s proposal to unbundle its chat and video app Teams from its Office product was sufficient to address their concerns, after the European Commission launched an investigation into its Office and Teams tie-up in July 2023.

Britain’s media regulator in October 2023 asked the country’s antitrust authority CMA to investigate Amazon and Microsoft’s dominance of the UK cloud market, citing features that made it more difficult for businesses to switch or mix and match cloud providers. CMA will complete its investigation by April 2025.

France’s competition watchdog on March 20 said it fined Google €250 million for breaches linked to EU intellectual property rules in its relationship with media publishers.

The authority raided Nvidia’s NVDA.O local offices last September, the Wall Street Journal reported. The watchdog had disclosed the raid but did not name the company beyond saying it was in the “graphics cards sector”.

Nvidia declined to comment.

The antitrust authority said in July 2023 Apple may have violated regulations related to the utilisation of iPhone user data in advertising and could potentially misuse its dominant market position by imposing biased, unclear, and unfair conditions to handle user data.

Google has agreed to change its user data practices to end a German antitrust investigation aimed at curbing its data-driven market power, the German cartel office said on October 5. Google’s commitments would give users more choice on how their data was used across the company’s platforms, the regulator said.

Italy’s competition watchdog fined British American Tobacco (BAT) BATS.L and Amazon in February a combined €7 million over misleading advertising for heated tobacco products.

Italy’s antitrust agency said in May 2023 it had opened a probe into Apple for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the apps market.

Last April, the watchdog took measures against Meta over an alleged abuse of its position in the country, in a probe involving the music rights posted on the group’s platforms.

The Dutch privacy watchdog AP in April said it was recommending that government organisations should stop using Facebook as long as it is unclear what happens with the personal data of users of the government’s Facebook pages.

The Dutch competition regulator last October said it had rejected Apple’s objections against fines of €50 million it had given the company over failure to comply with regulations aimed at limiting the dominant position of Apple’s App Store. Apple will appeal the decision in Dutch courts.

A Spanish startup group issued in May a complaint about Microsoft’s cloud practices to the country’s antitrust regulator. The Spanish Startup Association, which represents more than 700 startups in Spain, cited several allegedly anti-competitive practices by Microsoft in recent years.