Apple Pay Competition Practices Eyed By EU Regulators

Big Tech has gotten, is getting and will get its share of regulatory scrutiny. For Apple, there seems to be an increasing interest in its digital wallet, and how the firm is competing in the payments realm.

At the end of last week, as reported by CNBC, the EU’s Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said at a press conference in Lisbon, Portugal that “we get many, many concerns when it comes to Apple Pay, for pure competition reasons.”

The Commissioner also said, “People see that it becomes increasingly difficult to compete in the market for easy payments.”

As noted, Apple Pay is available across all EU member states, and there are estimates that the vast majority of users are located outside the U.S. Smaller companies had reportedly been told to use Apple Pay rather than rival payment processors.

Scrutiny of the Apple payment offering would come alongside other anticompetitive investigations, with the European Commission looking into antitrust complaints by Spotify against Apple over music streaming services.

Vestager also expressed concerns about Google’s recent acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1 billion, tied in part to continued competition issues over how the company lists shopping search results.

“In general, we have a concern if companies merge because of data,” Vestager said.

Vestager hit Google with a €2.4 billion ($2.65 billion USD) fine two years ago for favoring its own price comparison shopping service over rivals.

Here In The States

A bit closer to home, a bipartisan effort by several U.S. senators earlier in the month debuted a bill aimed at fostering transparency of Big Tech platforms’ algorithms.

As reported, the Filter Bubble Transparency Act would mandate that companies collecting data from at least 1 million users, and with top lines of more than $50 million, must inform their users of how they use algorithms across their platforms. The bill would also let users opt out of curated content.

The bill would also, as The Hill reported, make it illegal to operate large online platforms that deploy “secret” algorithms. The Federal Trade Commission would be able to enforce civil penalties against firms that violate the rules.

“This legislation is about transparency and consumer control,” said Senator John Thune (R-SD). “For free markets to work as effectively and as efficiently as possible, consumers need as much information as possible, including a better understanding of how internet platforms use artificial intelligence and opaque algorithms to make inferences from the reams of personal data at their fingertips that can be used to affect behavior and influence outcomes.”

Elsewhere, Facebook said last week that it will boost encryption capabilities on its Messenger communication platform. The movement would come despite requests from lawmakers and regulators not to do so, because criminal activity would ostensibly be harder to track. Facebook added that it is going to go over safety measures, and tell users how to avoid unwanted content, or how to report it.



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