Google, Apple, Facebook face EU scrutiny, while Uber fights back

Silicon Valley takes pride in its disruptive culture, but Europe is none too happy with how its innovations are upending homegrown industries, and some major tech companies are feeling the heat today.

Google is bracing for antitrust charges, after a report by the Wall Street Journal that EU regulators are asking permission from companies to publicly release their complaints against the Mountain View Internet giant — the first step toward formal charges, experts said.

EU competition regulators have been investigating Google for five years over allegations that it has abused its position as the continent’s dominant search engine. Google has denied the allegations. In November, EU lawmakers recommended — in a nonbinding vote — that Google be broken up.

“European enterprises are losing revenues and people are getting fired,” EU parliament member Ramon Tremosa said in a statement in November. “European consumers are not having the most pertinent choice because of Google’s preferential treatment to its own services.”

If charges are filed, it would be Europe’s highest-profile antitrust suit since Microsoft was fined $1 billion in 2008. If found guilty, the EU could fine Google up to 10 percent of its annual revenue, which totaled $66 billion last year, the Journal said.

• Apple is also finding itself in the cross hairs of European antitrust regulators. The Financial Times reports the Cupertino tech behemoth’s proposed streaming music service is under scrutiny.

Comparing the case to Apple’s U.S. antitrust case involving e-book pricing, regulators are said to be concerned that Apple will use its dominant position to lure music-licensing companies away from its competitors and crush free, ad-based services such as London-based Spotify.

Apple will reportedly charge around $8 a month for its service, and not offer a free version, as Spotify and Pandora do.

The probe is said to be in its early stages. Apple did not comment on the report.

• Not to feel left out, Facebook too is under increasing European scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal reports three more countries — France, Spain and Italy — have joined the Netherlands in investigating whether the Menlo Park social network’s privacy practices violate the law.

The investigation focuses on how Facebook uses data from its services, including Instagram and Whats App, to target ads, as well as how its “Like” button can be used to track browsing habits, the Times said. Earlier this week, Belgian regulators accused Facebook of illegally tracking users to its site — even if they are not members or have opted out of tracking.

Facebook’s European operations are based in Ireland, where it says it has followed all EU privacy laws, and on Tuesday a Facebook spokesman called the Belgian report factually inaccurate.

• One Bay Area tech company that had been hounded by EU authorities is fighting back. San Francisco-based Uber has filed formal complaints with the European Commission against France, Germany and Spain, alleging the nations have illegally attempted to ban its services, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to Uber’s argument, its car-hailing service should be regulated by the EU as a single entity, not country-by-country.

“This is supposed to be a single market,” Mark McGann, Uber’s head of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement. “What we’re finding is that we’re getting treated in completely different ways in different countries, and even within individual countries.”

Uber operates in 19 European countries, but has faced a fierce backlash from regulators and taxi unions.


At top: European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia speaks in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014.  (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)


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  • Since the latest publicity stunt of Sheryl Sandberg and her almost being on every plane disaster that comes out in the News for Face Book UPVOTES- I am seeing a trend of the recent Buy- back hype that most people and the word on the net and I’ve e been reading about- Since the latest mispronunciation of the definition of the term Discrimination; and we all know the FB is now having a terrible time with this and their attorneys; the ol switchboard operator of old has no knew Ideas. It would surprise me if ZUCK and the team conspired to turn ZUCK into a Disgusting Homosexual via his own and Purported mass indexing and new advertisement and voyeuristic gadgets that all the NEWS of the world has to offer

  • Yeah good luck fighting countries or group of countries that are drowning in debt – get ready to lose – but the US companies are not that innocent either. So let the games begin. Start your fines…

  • RegularGuy55

    Apple is too busy taking on the State of Indiana to deal with the EU.

  • Hey Google- Do you see any MERMAIDS down it that part of the ocean, cause scientist need to know?- You are in the deep Pacific, man- NYSE-

  • Rob

    Ban Uber-Enron Fraud before it self-explodes. This whole thing is based on massive lies, deception and denial of reality. Even the technology in use – they factually stole.