EU says Apple’s App Store is violating rules

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Apple has become the first major technology company to be accused of violating the European Union’s new digital market rules. This allegation has been made at a time when three days ago the technology giant said that it would not release artificial intelligence in the EU because of the regulation.

On Monday, the European Commission said Apple’s App Store prevents developers from communicating with their users and promoting offers directly to them, a practice known as anti-steering.

“Our initial position is that Apple absolutely does not allow steering. Steering is important to ensure that app developers are less dependent on the gatekeeper’s App Store and that consumers are aware of better offers,” EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

On X, Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, gave a more scathing assessment. He said, “For too long Apple has been crowding out innovative companies – depriving consumers of new opportunities and choices.”

The EU described the charges leveled on Monday as “preliminary findings.” Apple now has the opportunity to respond to the allegations and if no settlement is reached, the EU has the power to impose fines – which could be up to 10 percent of the company’s global turnover before March 2025.

Tensions between Apple and the EU have been growing for several months. Brussels launched an investigation into the smartphone maker in March for allegedly not complying with the bloc’s competition rules. Although investigations have also been launched into Meta and Google-parent Alphabet, Apple’s relationship with European developers has long been a topic of discussion in Brussels.

A member of the European Parliament who negotiated the Digital Markets Act in March told WIRED that Apple is the logical first target for the new rules, describing the company as an “easy-to-reach company.” Under the DMA, it is illegal for big tech companies to prioritise their own services over those of rivals.

Developers are up in arms over new business terms imposed on them by Apple, calling the company’s policies “abusive”, “extortionate” and “extremely punitive”.

Apple spokesman Rob Saunders said Monday that he was confident the company was complying with the law. “All developers doing business on the App Store in the EU have the opportunity to use the capabilities we’ve introduced, including the ability to direct app users to the web to complete a purchase at a very competitive rate,” he said.

On Friday, Apple said it would not release its artificial intelligence features in the EU this year because of what the company described as “regulatory uncertainties.” “Specifically, we are concerned that the DMA’s interoperability requirements could force us to compromise the integrity of our products, potentially putting user privacy and data security at risk,” Saunders said in a statement. The features affected are iPhone mirroring, SharePlay screen sharing enhancements, and Apple’s first foray into generative AI, Apple’s first foray into artificial intelligence.

Apple isn’t the only company to blame new EU rules for its decision to delay rolling out new features. Last year, Google delayed rolling out its ChatGPT rival Bard in the EU, and in early June Meta halted plans to train its AI on Europeans’ personal Facebook and Instagram data after discussions with privacy regulators. “This is a step backwards for European innovation, competition in AI development and a further delay in delivering the benefits of AI to people in Europe,” the company said at the time.

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