Apple Faces Mounting Antitrust Woes in US and EU: Here’s What Exactly It’s Being Accused Of

The tech giant is being accused of anticompetitive practices in several parts of its businesses.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age - Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (L) and the EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton (R)
European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (L) and the E.U. Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton. Getty Images

Lately, Apple (AAPL) has been hit with major antitrust lawsuits from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union. The iPhone maker is getting hit in different parts of its many businesses, which ranges from consumer electronics to streaming to software applications. 

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Today (Mar. 25) Apple, along with Meta (META) and Google (GOOGL)-owner Alphabet (GOOGL), are the first to be probed by E.U. regulators as having too much power over the digital economy as companies that provide “core platform services.” The European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm, has also designated Apple as a gatekeeper under its Digital Markets Act (DMA), which went into effect on March 7.

Under DMA, these companies must comply with E.U. laws that allow smaller or third-party companies to have more access to the digital market, or be fined up to 10 percent of their total worldwide annual turnover, or revenue. Apple specifically is being investigated for its issues with user choice, such as allowing users to uninstall apps from their phones or tablets. 

Six companies have been named as “gatekeepers” under the DMA. Aside from Apple, Meta and Alphabet, the list also include TikTok-owner ByteDance, Amazon and Microsoft (MSFT).  

Apple was dethroned by Microsoft in January from its status as the world’s most valuable public trading company, a rank that it carried for 13 years. But Apple’s power in the media and tech industries have also raised questions from both its home base and international governments over whether its practices are anticompetitive. 

The U.S. and E.U. antitrust suits target different parts of Apple’s business

Last week (Mar. 21), the DOJ alleged that Apple “suppresses technologies that would have increased competition among smartphones” in the U.S. The federal agency accused Apple of suppressing users’ access to alternative “super apps” or multiservice apps like China’s WeChat and Alipay, cloud streaming services, third-party messaging apps, smart watches and digital wallets. 

The DOJ’s antitrust division said in a statement announcing the suit that Apple’s response to competitive threats is a “series of ‘Whac-A-Mole’ contractual rules and restrictions that have allowed Apple to extract higher prices from consumers, impose higher fees on developers and creators, and to throttle competitive alternatives from rival technologies.”  

“Today’s lawsuit seeks to hold Apple accountable and ensure it cannot deploy the same, unlawful playbook in other vital markets,” said Jonathan Kanter, an assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s antitrust division.

The U.S. allegations mainly cover Apple’s place in the device market. A separate antitrust in Europe has targeted Apple as a media company.

On March 4, the European Commission slapped Apple with a $2 billion antitrust fine for the first time, though it has attempted to do so in years prior. Margarethe Vestager, the executive vice president of the E.C. responsible for media and information issues, wrote that Apple is abusing its dominant position in the music streaming market, a case brought on by competitor Spotify

“For a decade, Apple has restricted music streaming app developers from informing their consumers about cheaper options available outside of the app,” Vestager said in her statement. “Apple has done so by contractually imposing ‘anti-steering rules’ on music streaming app developers.”

Apple Faces Mounting Antitrust Woes in US and EU: Here’s What Exactly It’s Being Accused Of