Europe's antitrust crackdown on Apple hints at what's coming for the company in the U.S.


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AAPLApple CEO Tim CookSpencer Platt | Getty Images

For a long time, the European Commission seemed to stand apart from the U.S. in cracking down on tech giants with antitrust fines against Google and privacy rules like the General Data Protection Regulation.

But when the EU competition policy chief Margrethe Vestager announced Friday a preliminary finding that Apple has abused its dominant power in the distribution of streaming music apps, the U.S. finally seems poised to move in a similar direction.

“The Commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition,” Apple said in a statement following Vestager’s announcement, referring to the music streaming company that raised the competition complaint. Apple said Spotify wants “all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that,” by choosing to object to its 15-30% commission on in-app payments for streaming apps.

Apple isn’t currently facing any antitrust charges from government officials in the U.S. and such a lawsuit may never materialize, though the Department of Justice was reportedly granted oversight of the company’s competitive practices in 2019. But even if the government declines to press charges, recent actions in Congress, state legislatures and in private lawsuits demonstrate a significant shift in the American public’s sentiment toward Apple and the tech industry at large.

When the commission slapped its first record competition fine against Google in 2017, it wasn’t yet clear that the U.S. might be ready to move on from its once-cozy relationship with its booming tech industry. But in 2018, on the heels of the revelations of how Facebook user data was used by analytics company Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 election, and increasing questions about how tech platforms can impact American democracy, that seemed to change.

Now, as Europe continues to move forward with its probe into Apple, the U.S. no longer seems to be so far behind.

Here’s where Apple stands to face risk of antitrust action or regulation in the U.S.:


The DOJ has already moved forward with a massive lawsuit against Google, so it could take some time if it decides to ramp up a