EU's Vestager says tech giants may prefer fines to compliance, cites Apple


FILE PHOTO: European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager presents the EU's action plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries, during a news conference in Brussels, Belgium February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Some U.S. tech giants may prefer to pay a fine rather than comply with antitrust rules, the European Union's antitrust chief said, and cited Apple's fight with the Netherlands' competition authority as an example.

The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) imposed a 5-million-euro ($5.7 million) fine on Apple on Monday, the fifth such penalty in successive weeks, linked to claims Apple does allow access to non-Apple payment methods for subscriptions to dating apps.

European Commission Vice President and digital chief Margrethe Vestager said Apple's behaviour could indicate other big companies behave similarly.

"Some gatekeepers may be tempted to play for time or try to circumvent the rules," she said in an online speech at a U.S. awards ceremony on Tuesday.

"Apple's conduct in the Netherlands these days may be an example. As we understand it, Apple essentially prefers paying periodic fines, rather than comply with a decision of the Dutch Competition Authority on the terms and conditions for third parties to access its App Store."

Contacted by Reuters, Apple referred to a Feb. 3 blogpost, which said it is required to make the mandated changes to satisfy its legal obligations in the Netherlands while helping to protect users from increased risks.

Vestager has proposed landmark rules called the Digital Markets Act that targets Alphabet unit Google, Amazon Apple, Facebook and Microsoft and which could come into effect next year.

One of its requirements would be that Apple allow third parties to access its App Store. Apple's App Store condition that app developers exclusively use its payment system with commissions of 30% has come under scrutiny in several countries, most recently the United States.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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