European Commission trustbusters eye Siri and other voice assistants

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European Commission trustbuster Margrethe Vestager has Siri in her sights.
Do voice assistants like Siri give companies an unfair advantage?
Photo: ECR Group/Flickr CC

Does the voice data harvested by voice assistants like Siri give tech giants an unfair marketplace advantage? Lawmakers in Europe are currently pondering that exact question.

A European Commission investigation into the matter will look at whether this data is being used to stifle competition and maintain the position of companies like Apple and Amazon in the marketplace. This most notably relates to the rapidly expanding constellation of smart, connected devices.

European Commission may have lost Apple tax case, but it believes it’s morally in the right

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Image showing
The tax battle with Apple looks set to rage on.
Photo: New York Public Library/Unsplash CC

The European Commission may have lost its court case about Apple’s $14.8 billion tax bill, but it continues to believe that it’s morally in the right.

“We do not consider it normal that the largest corporates get away with paying one percent tax at most,” European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters in the aftermath.

Apple faces more antitrust scrutiny in Europe, this time over e-books

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Kobo
Kobo's e-book app is available through the App Store.
Photo: Rakuten

Apple faces another antitrust complaint in the European Union, this time from Japanese tech company Rakuten. The anti-competition complaint relates to Apple’s e-book business, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

In response, the EU opened an official investigation into the App Store. On Tuesday, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the government will scrutinize Cupertino’s business practices. “We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books,” Vestager said. “I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s App Store rules and their compliance with EU competition rules.”

Tile takes complaints about Apple to the EU Commission

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Tile trackers help find lost dogs.
Apple is accused to making Tile trackers harder to use as it prepares to launch a competing product.
Photo: Tile

Tile, a startup that makes location-aware tracking tags, told the European Commission’s Competition department that Apple isn’t playing fair. It claims the iPhone maker has moved to “completely disadvantage” its smaller rival, even as Apple prepares to launch its own tracking tags.

The accessory maker told the U.S. government the same thing earlier this year.

Signal is the European Commission’s encrypted messaging app of choice

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Signal app
Signal is all about privacy.
Photo: Signal

The European Commission doesn’t want its staff using WhatsApp or iMessage for internal communications. Instead, they must start using end-to-end-encrypted messaging app Signal as part of a push toward greater security.

“Signal has been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging,” noted an instruction that reportedly appeared on internal EC messaging boards in early February.

European Commission is only just getting started with tech giants

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European Commission is only just getting started with tech giants
Margrethe Vestager is tough on tech.
Photo: European Parliament/Wikipedia CC

Margrethe Vestager, head of the European Commission’s Competition department, has handed out giant fines to tech companies — such as Apple’s massive $14.5 billion bill in 2016.

But a new report suggests that Vestager isn’t done with tech companies by a long shot. In fact, the next several years could make the previous five look uneventful for Silicon Valley companies.

EU eyes Apple Pay and its competitive edge

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Apple Pay on iPhone and Apple Watch
Apple Pay is the only NFC payment system allowed on iPhone. Is that anticompetitive, or Apple just being safe?
Screenshot: Apple

In August, EU antitrust investigators sent a questionnaire to banks and developers of rival payment systems about Apple Pay. They’ve gotten an earful, according to Margrethe Vestager, the EU Competition Commissioner.

Antitrust investigators want to know if retailers were compelled to use Apple Pay

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Antitrust investigators want to know if retailers were compelled to use Apple Pay
Could Apple Pay be breaking the law?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

European antitrust regulators are asking online retailers if they are contractually obligated to use Apple Pay over rival services.

The European Commission suggests it has information that Apple could have restricted online payments for goods and services using rival payment solutions. This would be in breach of EU antitrust rules.

EU antitrust regulators start Apple Pay inquiry

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Norwegian Apple Pay
Apple Pay is available in many European countries, including Norway.
Photo: Apple

Apple Pay, the iPhone’s built-in payment system, is reportedly in the sights of EU investigators. They are looking into whether Apple is giving its system an unfair advantage over competitors.

Starbucks’ tax hearing in Europe gives hope for Apple’s own tax battle

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Apple Pay finally overtakes Starbucks in mobile payments
Starbucks case could offer a clue concerning Apple's own $14.4 billion tax battle.
Photo: Nicky Colman/Flickr

Apple has received a glimpse of hope in its giant $14.4 billion tax battle against the EU. On Tuesday, the European Commission’s similar tax case against Starbucks collapsed. The EC claimed that Starbucks had received an unfair sweetheart tax deal in the Netherlands. The European Commission’s General Court overturned this earlier 2015 decision.

But another case against Fiat Chrysler concluded with the European court saying that it had enjoyed preferential tax treatment in Luxembourg.