Apple may have made itself a target before the EU's Digital Markets Act comes into force

iPhone giant's $2B fine shows the bloc is serious about regulation

Experts say Apple has made itself a target for regulators as the EU introduces stringent new rules under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) which just went into effect.

The DMA came into force at midnight European time and introduces powers to fine tech giants up to 10 percent of their turnover. Speaking on the eve of its introduction, William Echikson, non-resident senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), said Apple's $2 billion fine for its music-related anti-steering provisions looked like the kind that the DMA is designed to enforce.

"Whether the commission will pick one company to challenge its compliance plan – I think it's really early days," he said.

But he added that "big-pocketed" companies were putting forward hundreds of pages of compliance plans, which were swamping regulators.

"When I talked to some lawyers, and the regulators have to come back and say, 'no, that's no good.' They will probably end up in court, and the court cases will last several years. They might want to act before the European elections, but I think it'll be difficult because the legal process will play out," he told a CEPA webinar.

Enrique Dans, senior fellow with the Digital Innovation Initiative at CEPA and professor at Spain's IE Business School, agreed that Apple is "making itself an obvious target" but for different reasons.

He said Apple appeared to be making its services and app store more open but would use loopholes to make it difficult for users.

"This is trying to game the spirit of the European law, so to speak, and it clearly infuriates the European regulators. So they might react faster because of that," he said.

The Register has offered Apple the opportunity to respond.

Earlier this week, Apple was fined €1.8 billion ($1.95 billion) for its so-called anti-steering provisions that stop music streaming apps from directing users outside the App Store for paid services. The European Commission said Apple's policies "amount to unfair trading conditions" and "are neither necessary nor proportionate for the protection of Apple's commercial interests."

The fine was meted out in breach of Article 102(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Although the fine did not require the DMA to be in force, the EU was sending a message to the market, said Forrester vice president principal analyst Thomas Husson.

"By fining Apple the third largest fine ever in Europe for anti-competitive rules right before the DMA comes into force, the European Commission wanted to share a clear signal to digital platforms that it is really serious about regulating competition. The fine represents about 0.5 percent of Apple's global turnover, but in theory, fines for companies that do not comply moving forward with the EU's DMA could reach up to 10 percent of their total turnover," he said.

"No doubt some digital platforms will appeal to the Court of Justice of the EU, lobby against the regulation, and try to win time, especially in the context of the upcoming EU parliament election where political balance could evolve," Husson said. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like