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Commission proposes measures to boost data sharing and support European data spaces

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Today (25 November), the Commission is presenting the Data Governance Act, the first deliverable under the data strategy adopted in February. The Regulation will facilitate data sharing across the EU and between sectors to create wealth for society, increase control and trust of both citizens and companies regarding their data, and offer an alternative European model to data handling practice of major tech platforms.

The amount of data generated by public bodies, businesses and citizens is constantly growing. It is expected to multiply by five between 2018 and 2025. These new rules will allow this data to be harnessed and will pave the way for sectoral European data spaces to benefit society, citizens and companies. In the Commission’s data strategy of February this year, nine such data spaces have been proposed, ranging from industry to energy, and from health to the European Green Deal. They will, for example, contribute to the green transition by improving the management of energy consumption, make delivery of personalized medicine a reality, and facilitate access to public services.

Follow the press conference by Executive Vice President Vestager and Commissioner Breton live on EbS.

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Business

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Apple on App Store rules for music streaming providers

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that it distorted competition in the music streaming market as it abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps through its App Store. The Commission takes issue with the mandatory use of Apple's own in-app purchase mechanism imposed on music streaming app developers to distribute their apps via Apple's App Store. The Commission is also concerned that Apple applies certain restrictions on app developers preventing them from informing iPhone and iPad users of alternative, cheaper purchasing possibilities.

The Statement of Objections concerns the application of these rules to all music streaming apps, which compete with Apple's music streaming app “Apple Music” in the European Economic Area (EEA). It follows-up on a complaint by Spotify. The Commission's preliminary view is that Apple's rules distort competition in the market for music streaming services by raising the costs of competing music streaming app developers. This in turn leads to higher prices for consumers for their in-app music subscriptions on iOS devices. In addition, Apple becomes the intermediary for all IAP transactions and takes over the billing relationship, as well as related communications for competitors. If confirmed, this conduct would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of an investigation.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “App stores play a central role in today's digital economy. We can now do our shopping, access news, music or movies via apps instead of visiting websites. Our preliminary finding is that Apple is a gatekeeper to users of iPhones and iPads via the App Store. With Apple Music, Apple also competes with music streaming providers. By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition. This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.” A full press release is available online.

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Aviation/airlines

Portugal extends COVID-19 air travel curbs until mid May

Reuters

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Portugal is extending until 16 May flight restrictions that stop non-essential travel from countries including Brazil with high coronavirus incidence rates, and added India to the list due to the rapid rise in infections there.

Travellers from countries where 500 or more cases per 100,000 people have been reported over a 14-day period - which also include South Africa, France and the Netherlands - can only enter Portugal if they have a valid reason, such as for work or healthcare, the government said on Saturday.

Arrivals must then quarantine for 14 days.

The decision on India means Portugal is joining a growing number of countries imposing such restrictions. Neighbouring Spain also on Saturday said passengers arriving there from India must go into quarantine for 10 days to avoid spreading COVID-19, a government bulletin said. Read more

Portugal said people from countries where the incidence rate is 150 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, such as Spain and Germany, can also travel by plane to the country only for essential reasons.

They will have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure for Portugal. Those without a test will have to take one on arrival and wait for the result at the airport.

The extension of air travel restrictions came on the same day most of Portugal moved to the final phase of a gradual easing of rules imposed in January to tackle what was then the world's worst COVID-19 surge.

As infections dropped sharply, lockdown restrictions started to be eased in mid March. Schools, restaurants and cafes, shopping malls, museums and other non-essential services have since reopened, but under strict rules to reduce contagion risk.

Portugal's 1,200 km land border with Spain also reopened on Saturday after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.

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Competition

Vestager accuses Apple of abusing its role as gatekeeper in music streaming market

Catherine Feore

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The European Commission accuses Apple of abusing their position as a gatekeeper in the music streaming market.

In its ‘statement of objections’ the Commission says music streaming app developers who want to reach Apple device users (iPhone, iPad) have to use Apple store and are charged a 30% commission fee on all subscriptions. They are also obliged to follow Apple’s ‘anti-steering provisions’, which limit developers from informing consumers of alternative purchasing possibilities outside of apps. 

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Our preliminary finding is that Apple is a gatekeeper to users of iPhones and iPads via the App Store. With Apple Music, Apple also competes with music streaming providers. By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition. This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.”

Markus Ferber MEP, European People’s Party group spokesman on economic affairs welcomed the development: “There is always a big risk of abuse for a platform operator like Apple to give preference to its own services on its platform compared to competing services. 

“Apple has been using its App Store for a while to keep its competitors at bay by using dodgy contractual clauses and exorbitant fees. By making use of these anti-competitive practices, gatekeepers such as Apple are preventing true competition from emerging in the first place.”

Long overdue

Ferber also called the Commission’s action long overdue: “It took years for EU competition authorities to get their act together. Apple’s competitors have had to take the hit in the meantime. We urgently have to move from ex-post competition enforcement to ex-ante prevention of market abuse. The Digital Markets Act can be a powerful tool in this regard.”

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