Google can ward off EU antitrust probe into Fitbit deal with data pledge – Security – Finance- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Google may be able to stave off a full-scale EU antitrust investigation into its planned US$2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker maker Fitbit by pledging not to use Fitbit’s health data for its ads, people familiar with the matter said.
The deal announced in November last year allows Google, a unit of Alphabet, to take on Apple and Samsung in the fitness trackers and smart watches market, where other players include Huawei and Xiaomi.
The leader in the global wearables market was Apple with a 29.3 percent market share in the first quarter of 2020, followed by Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei, according to data from market research firm IDC.
Fitbit’s share was 3 percent.
Still, the deal has drawn heavy criticism from privacy advocates on both sides of the Atlantic, concerned that Google may use Fitbit’s trove of health data to boost its dominance in online advertising and search.
Earlier this month, EU regulators asked rival makers of wearable devices, app developers and other online service providers as well as healthcare providers for their views.
Google could allay competition worries by offering a binding pledge to EU competition enforcers along the lines of its promise last year not to use Fitbit’s health and wellness data for Google ads, the people said.
The European Commission, which is scheduled to decide on the deal by July 20, declined to comment. The deadline for Google to offer concessions is July 13.
Google said the deal is about devices and not data.
“The wearables space is highly crowded, and we believe the combination of Google’s and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable,” a spokesperson said.
“Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data,” she said.
The US Justice Department is also reviewing the deal while the Australian regulator said it could harm competition.

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Apple Pay targeted by EU antitrust regulators – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Apple is being investigated by EU antitrust regulators over its App Store and mobile payment system Apple Pay as the bloc turns up the heat on gatekeepers of online platforms on which thousands of companies depend for business.
The European Commission said its investigation would look into Apple’s requirement forcing app developers to sell to customers using its own in-app purchase system and rules preventing them from informing users of cheaper products elsewhere.
The investigation will also cover all apps which compete with Apple in Europe, which could be icloud and gaming apps, following informal information received by regulators.
The probe followed Swedish music streaming service Spotify’s complaint last year, which said Apple was unfairly restricting rivals to its own music steaming service Apple Music.
Another gripe was the 30 percent fee levied on app developers.
Spotify welcomed the EU move. A smaller rival filed a similar grievance related to e-books and audiobooks in March this year.
“It appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
The second case focuses on Apple’s terms and conditions on how its mobile payment service Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites, and also the company’s refusal to allow rivals access to the payment system.
Regulators are also concerned that Apple Pay, launched in 2014 as the company diversified from sales of devices like iPhones and iPads, is the only mobile payment service allowed to use the “tap and go” functionality on iPhones.
Apple Pay’s terms have previously been targeted by three of Australia’s ‘Big 4’ banks, though that fight was ultimately unsuccessful.
Apple was critical of the EU investigation.
“It’s disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else,” Appler said in a statement.
“We don’t think that’s right — we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed.”

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Google’s payments app faces anti-trust issues- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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India’s antitrust body is looking into allegations that Alphabet Inc’s Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country, five sources familiar with the case told Reuters.
The complaint was filed in February and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has kept the identity of the complainant confidential, the first source with direct knowledge of the case said.
The complaint alleges the U.S. tech giant more prominently showcases its Google Pay app inside its Android app store in India, giving it an unfair advantage over apps of competitors which hurts consumers, the source added.
Google did not respond to a request for comment. Two of the sources said the watchdog informed Google about the case being filed a few days ago and the company will respond in due course.
A source said the case filing is currently being reviewed by senior CCI members. Typically in such cases, Google will appear before the watchdog which will then decide on the way forward.
The CCI can direct its investigations unit to conduct a wider probe into the allegations, or dismiss the case if it finds no merit in it.”It is at a consideration stage,” the source said.
The CCI did not respond to a request for comment.
This is Google’s third major antitrust challenge in India. In 2018, the CCI fined Google $21 million for “search bias”, but a company appeal against that is pending. The CCI last year also started probing Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.
Google Pay allows users in India to do inter-bank fund transfers and bill payments. It competes with apps such as Softbank-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s crowded digital payments market, where Facebook’s WhatsApp is also planning a similar service.
Google said on its blog in September that its payments app had rapidly grown in India to reach 67 million monthly active users, driving transactions worth more than $110 billion on an annualised basis. Use of such apps has surged in India.
The Google antitrust complaint alleges the company is able to leverage its strong position in the Android market to promote the app, the first source added.
Android mobile operating platforms power around 98% of the 490 million smartphones in India, data from Counterpoint Research showed.
The complaint also alleges Google is promoting its payments app using search manipulation, the source added, without elaborating whether the allegations detail how the company didso.
One of the sources, however, said users in India have options to select one of the several digital payment apps available on Android, something that Google can use to defendagainst complaints over its dominant position.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the CCI was looking into allegations that WhatsApp was abusing its dominant position by offering payment services to its vast base of messaging app users in the country.

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Google faces antitrust case in India over payments app – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

India’s antitrust body is looking into allegations that Alphabet Inc’s Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country, five sources familiar with the case told Reuters.
The complaint was filed in February and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has kept the identity of the complainant confidential, the first source with direct knowledge of the case said.
The complaint alleges the U.S. tech giant more prominently showcases its Google Pay app inside its Android app store in India, giving it an unfair advantage over apps of competitors which hurts consumers, the source added.
Google did not respond to a request for comment. Two of the sources said the watchdog informed Google about the case being filed a few days ago and the company will respond in due course.
A source said the case filing is currently being reviewed by senior CCI members. Typically in such cases, Google will appear before the watchdog which will then decide on the way forward.
The CCI can direct its investigations unit to conduct a wider probe into the allegations, or dismiss the case if it finds no merit in it.
“It is at a consideration stage,” the source said.
The CCI did not respond to a request for comment.
This is Google’s third major antitrust challenge in India. In 2018, the CCI fined Google $21 million for “search bias”, but a company appeal against that is pending. The CCI last year also started probing Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.
Google Pay allows users in India to do inter-bank fund transfers and bill payments. It competes with apps such as Softbank-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s crowded digital payments market, where Facebook’s WhatsApp is also planning a similar service.
Google said on its blog in September that its payments app had rapidly grown in India to reach 67 million monthly active users, driving transactions worth more than $110 billion on an annualised basis. Use of such apps has surged in India.
The Google antitrust complaint alleges the company is able to leverage its strong position in the Android market to promote the app, the first source added.
Android mobile operating platforms power around 98% of the 490 million smartphones in India, data from Counterpoint Research showed.
The complaint also alleges Google is promoting its payments app using search manipulation, the source added, without elaborating whether the allegations detail how the company did so.
One of the sources, however, said users in India have options to select one of the several digital payment apps available on Android, something that Google can use to defend against complaints over its dominant position.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the CCI was looking into allegations that WhatsApp was abusing its dominant position by offering payment services to its vast base of messaging app users in the country.

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Mastercard’s Scandinavian e-pay deal in EU antitrust crosshairs – Finance – Strategy – Networking- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

European Union antitrust regulators on Monday said Mastercard Inc’s plan to buy part of Scandinavian payments group Nets is a significant threat to competition in Europe based on information from six countries including Britain.
The US payments group disagreed with the EU’s assessment and said it hoped to finalise the deal by the end of the second quarter.
Mastercard announced plans in August last year to buy three divisions of European rival Nets, covering corporate clearing, instant payments and e-billing.
The bid for Scandinavia’s largest payments processor is part of a wave of consolidation in the sector as credit card companies and banks look to capitalise on a growing market triggered by the switch from cash to mobile payments.
The European Commission, which acts as the EU’s antitrust enforcer, said it had accepted a request from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Britain to take over the case.
Based on the information provided by the six national competition agencies, it said the deal “threatens to significantly affect competition” in the Nordic area, the European Economic Area and in Britain.
Mastercard will now have to gain EU approval for the transaction, the Commission said in a statement.
Mastercard said it disagreed with the assessment that the deal could have an adverse impact in the United Kingdom or any EU country.
“We have been working with the European Commission in order to expedite this process,” Mastercard said in a statement.
“We hope to be in a position to complete the acquisition before the end of the second quarter of 2020.”
The EU antitrust watchdog’s preliminary review of mergers takes 25 working days, which can be extended to about four months if there are serious concerns.

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French antitrust regulator fines Apple €1.1bn – Finance – Hardware- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

France’s competition watchdog on Monday fined iPhone maker Apple 1.1 billion euros (A$2.01 billion), saying it was guilty of anti-competitive behaviour towards its distribution and retail network.
The fine, the biggest ever levied by the French antitrust body, comes at a time of heightened scrutiny on US tech giants by European regulators, who have been delving into the firms’ powerful market position, the tax they pay, and how they protect consumers’ privacy.
Apple said it would appeal the watchdog’s ruling, which it said was at odds with legal precedent in France.
In its decision, the French regulator said Apple imposed prices on retail premium resellers so that the prices were aligned with those charged by the California firm in its own shops, or on the Internet.
The watchdog said Apple’s two wholesalers in France fully followed the US company’s instructions on how to allocate its products to customers, instead of freely determining their commercial policy.
“Apple and its two wholesalers agreed not to compete with each other and to prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilising the wholesale market for Apple products,” the watchdog said in a statement.
The two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, were fined 76 million and 63 million euros respectively, the authority said. Tech Data had no immediate comment to make and Ingram Micro could not immediately be reached.
“The French competition authority’s decision is disheartening,” Apple said in a statement announcing it planned to appeal.
“It relates to practices from over a decade ago and discards 30 years of legal precedent that all companies in France rely on with an order that will cause chaos for companies across all industries.”
Since her nomination as the head of the French competition authority in 2016, Isabelle de Silva has set her sights on US tech companies, including Alphabet Inc’s Google, which was fined 150 million euros ($167 million) for opaque advertising rules.

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Intel says flawed EU antitrust decision underpins $1.85 billion fine – Finance – Hardware- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Intel on Tuesday said EU antitrust regulators got it wrong when they fined the chipmaker €1.06 billion (A$1.85 billion) more than a decade ago for thwarting a British rival in a case that could affect Google and Qualcomm.
The US company set out its arguments at the General Court in a re-hearing of a case seen as testing the European Commission’s power to go after US tech giants which offer incentives such as rebates to lure customers from competitors.
EU antitrust enforcers in 2009 said Intel tried to block Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to computer makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their chips from Intel.
The General Court is hearing the case for the second time after the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Europe’s highest, in 2017 disagreed with its 2014 ruling backing the Commission’s decision, in a major setback to the EU competition watchdog.
It told the lower tribunal to re-examine the case and whether exclusivity rebates actually harmed competition.
The Commission’s decision was fundamentally flawed, Intel’s lawyer Daniel Beard told the panel of five judges.
“The Commission either took a wrong approach in its decision or it carried out an as efficient competitor (AEC) test and it got it wrong,” he said.
An AEC test is an economic analysis that determines if a dominant company knocks out competitors that are as efficient or more efficient through anti-competitive practices while pushing out a less efficient rival may not be problematic for regulators.
Commission lawyer Nicholas Khan criticised Intel for seeking to re-open the entire case.
“That was assessed very exhaustively in 2014. Intel’s request is a second bite at the cherry,” he told judges.
The Association for Competitive Technology is supporting Intel while French consumer body UFC is backing the Commission. A judgment is likely to come next year while the losing party can appeal to the CJEU.
Qualcomm has challenged a 997-million-euro EU fine for paying iPhone maker Apple to use only its chips, blocking out rivals such as Intel.
Google has also challenged a record 4.34-billion euro EU antitrust fine levied for using its Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals.
The case is T-286/09 RENV Intel Corporation v Commission.

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Google says EU antitrust regulators holding back innovation – Strategy- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Google defended its business model on Wednesday, saying that making innovative products was at its core rather than helping rivals, as it sought to overturn a 2.4-billion-euro (A$3.9 billion) EU antitrust fine at Europe’s second-highest court.
The legal fight comes as European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager gears up to take on US tech giants and Chinese companies with legislation in the coming months, on top of ongoing antitrust investigations.
“Competition law does not require Google to hold back innovation or compromise its quality to accommodate rivals. Otherwise, competition would be restricted and innovation would be stifled,” the company’s lawyer Thomas Graf told a panel of five judges on the first of a three-day hearing at the General Court.
“The decision’s case is, at its core, that Google should not have introduced these innovations, unless it gave competing CSSs (comparison shopping services) the same access,” Graf said, laying out the arguments for the world’s most popular internet search engine in a decade-long battle with the European Commission over its business practices.
The company did not favour its own service but competed on its merits, he said.
The EU competition enforcer handed the fine to Google in 2017 for favouring its own price-comparison shopping service against those of smaller European rivals.
Two further decisions for different issues since then have lifted the total penalty to 8.25 billion euros, four times more than Microsoft’s EU fines of 2.2 billion euros.
Commission lawyer Nicholas Khan swatted away Google’s arguments, saying this was a clear case of a company using its dominance to give itself an advantage in other markets.
“What Google engaged in was leveraging conduct of the type found to be abusive many times under EU competition law. Conceptually, there is nothing esoteric about this case,” he told the judges.
He criticised Google for cherry picking elements of the EU decision to challenge.
“It is as if Google has applied a ranking algorithm to the decision and decided that parts of it just aren’t relevant,” Khan said.
Lawyer Thomas Vinje for British price-comparison shopping service Foundem, whose complaint triggered the EU investigation, said Google’s product would never have gained prominence if Google had treated it the same way as rival products.
“But instead of being prone to being demoted, Google’s comparison-shopping service is systematically promoted to the most visible spots in Google’s search results,” he said.
Tech lobbying group CCIA, which backs Google, said enforcers should be careful they do not nip innovation in the bud.
“There will be less innovation, and a worse outcome for consumers, if tech companies are disincentivized from improving their websites or adding new features,” CCIA lawyer James Killick said.
Judges will rule in the coming months.
The case is T-612/17 Google and Alphabet v Commission.

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Zuckerberg to meet EU Commissioners ahead of antitrust proposals – Strategy – Networking- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will meet the EU’s digital and industry chiefs on Feb. 17, EU officials said on Tuesday, days before the two Commissioners present proposals to rein in US tech giants and Chinese rivals.
In addition to European Competition and Digital Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, Zuckerberg will also meet justice chief Vera Jourova, the officials said.
Facebook said: “Next week, Mark Zuckerberg will travel to Europe to participate in the Munich Security Conference, and meet with European decision-makers in Brussels to discuss a framework for new rules and regulation for the internet.”
Vestager and Breton are set to announce proposals on Feb. 19 to create a single European data market aimed at challenging the dominance of US tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon , according to a European Commission proposal seen by Reuters.
They will also propose rules to govern the use of artificial intelligence. The Commission is expected to seek feedback before finalising the rules.
Facebook is already in Vestager’s crosshairs over its use of data collected by the company over the years from classified ads players and its right to use their data for any purpose including to launch competing products, according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters.
Zuckerberg’s last public appearance in Brussels was in 2018 when he met European Parliament leaders to answer questions on how the data of 2.7 million European users was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

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Google’s holiday rental service under fire as 40 rivals urge EU antitrust action – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Alphabet unit Google faces the risk of more EU antitrust problems after 40 rivals on both sides of the Atlantic accused it of favouring its own vacation rental service on its search engine and urged European Union enforcers to take action.
The 40 companies and trade bodies in nine EU countries, Switzerland and the United States, which include eDreams Odigeo, Expedia and Tripadvisor, laid out the case against Google in a letter to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager seen by Reuters.
“We see strong indications of a competitive strategy for Google to reduce us and our industry to mere content providers for the ‘one-stop-shop’ of Google’s new product,” the letter said.
In focus is Google’s prominent display of its product at the top of its general search results pages, jazzed up with pictures, a map review, ratings and prices.
“Such favourable ranking and display secures Google’s service more user attention and clicks than any competing service may acquire, even if these are more relevant for the user’s search query,” the letter said.
One of the signatories, who declined to be named, has taken the further step of filing a complaint with Vestager.
The letter came as Google gears up for a legal battle on Wednesday against the first of three antitrust fines levied by Vestager for using its dominance to promote its price comparison shopping service, squeezing out smaller rivals.
The Commission said it had received the letter, but declined comment on receipt of the complaint.
Google said its search results aim to provide users with the most relevant information.
“We’re currently testing a new format for specialist searches in Europe, including jobs, local and travel, where people might see a carousel of links to direct sites across the top of the search results,” a spokeswoman said.
“This is designed to demonstrate the range of results available.”
The company started including vacation rentals in hotel search results in 2018. The Financial Times was the first to report the letter.

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