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France issues legal challenge to ‘abusive commercial practices’ by Google, Apple

Mark Jansen
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France will be taking legal action against Google owner Alphabet, and Apple with allegations that both tech giants have taken advantage of app developers with “abusive commercial practices.”

Speaking to RTL Radio on Wednesday, March 14, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire claimed that the two companies held all the cards in their relationships with app developers, and that they could rewrite the rules as they saw fit. He said “I learned that when developers develop their applications, and sell to Google and Apple, their prices are imposed, Google and Apple take all their data, Google and Apple can unilaterally rewrite their contracts. All that is unacceptable and it’s not the economy that we want. They can’t treat our startups and developers the way they do.”

Alphabet (Google) and Apple are the two major players in smartphone operating systems, with Android and iOS taking up almost all of the market between them. As such, they’re the only real game in town for mobile app developers. France’s Finance ministry conducted an investigation during the period of 2015 to 2017 that determined that “significant imbalances” existed between the developers and the tech companies, and if Le Maire’s comments are to be believed, then both companies could be on the hook for millions of euros as a result.

This isn’t France’s first tangle with tech companies. Following the revelation that Apple had been purposefully slowing down older iPhones to combat unexpected shutdowns, France launched an investigation into the possibility of planned obsolescence. Le Maire has also pushed to punish Amazon on similar grounds, accusing the ecommerce company of abusing its lofty position in the marketplace. Should the matter make it through tribunal, that case could cost Amazon a hefty 10 million euros ($12.35 million).

Both companies are main runners in the race to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company, and while some business practices could be changed as a result of this challenge, it’s unlikely the financial loss will be significant. Still, we doubt that either Apple or Google would want the bad press that comes from this sort of challenge.

In an email to Digital Trends, Google said “With more than 1,000 downloads per sec, Google Play is a great way for European app developers large and small, including many in France, to distribute their apps to people all around the world. We have been collaborating with DGCCRF on many topics over the last few years, including on Google Play. We believe our terms comply with French laws and are looking forward to making our case in court”.

We have also reached out Apple for comment and will update this article if we hear back.