The European Commission is expected to hit Apple with new antitrust charges, according to a report out today from Reuters.
They will be the latest charges in an ongoing music streaming investigation that kicked off last year, following a 2019 complaint from the streaming service Spotify.
The new development is an indicator that the commission may have found new evidence or changed an element of its case, and it isn't the only antitrust regulation that the EU has issued in recent months.
Apple's Antitrust Issues
The European Commission's case against Apple last year hinged on the claim that the $3 trillion tech giant had distorted the music streaming industry in its own favor with unduly restrictive App Store rules.
These rules included forcing app developers to use Apple's own payment system while barring them from pointing users towards any outside payment system.
In March, the EU provisionally agreed on the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is designed to prevent similar anti-competitive practices from tech giants including Amazon, Google, and Meta, as well as Apple. Once that act takes effect, Apple's actions in the music streaming world will clearly be illegal.
Right now, though, it's not as clear cut.
“The DMA is still two years away. The rules will probably apply to Apple at the beginning of 2024. This is why antitrust cases remain important,” lawyer Damien Geradin at Geradin Partners, who's advising app developers in other cases against Apple, told Reuters.
The new charges, according to Reuters, will be in a supplementary statement of objections, indicating some change of direction in the case that remains to be fully revealed.
Is Tech Facing a Reckoning?
Apple has faced similar pushback from the US government in the past. As Tech.co senior writer Conor Cawley wrote in 2019:
“The reality of the situation is that tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have gone generally unregulated for a long time, partly for the sake of innovation, but also because politicians are comparatively out of touch when it comes to the tech industry, making it hard to write laws that apply to the decidedly complicated industry.”
But despite regular waves of public backlash against anti-competitive moves and privacy-threatening data collection, tech giants have continued strong with relatively little oversight from slow-moving US government officials.
The latest reported charges against Apple are yet another indicator that global governments are taking a firmer stance than ever against potential abuses of tech companies' power — but it's also not an all-in-one silver bullet in the fight.