EU launches competition probe into Apple, Google and Meta

The European Union is to examine three of the biggest tech firms over possible breaches of competition rules.

The non-compliance proceedings involve Apple, Google owner Alphabet, and Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.

Regulators will look at whether their business practices effectively lock users into certain products or services, in breach of the Digital Markets Act.

Included in the scope of the investigation will be whether Apple and Alphabet are constraining app developers’ ability to freely communicate with users and make contracts with them; whether Meta’s ‘pay or consent’ model unfairly asks people to pay to avoid their data being used for adverts; and whether Google preferences the company’s own services in search results.

“The Digital Markets Act became applicable on 7 March,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the EU’s Internal Market. “We have been in discussions with gatekeepers for months to help them adapt, and we can already see changes happening on the market. But we are not convinced that the solutions by Alphabet, Apple and Meta respect their obligations for a fairer and more open digital space for European citizens and businesses.”

If the companies are found to have broken the rules, they could face significant fines of up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover.

Large-scale legal claim against Google for ad-tracking breach

Google is facing a large-scale lawsuit over claims it unlawfully collected data from millions of British users. According to BBC News, it is the first legal claim of its kind in the UK.

A group calling itself Google You Owe Us, led by former Which director Richard Lloyd has accused the tech giant of unlawfully collecting data from 5.4 million users by bypassing privacy settings on iPhones.

The claim centres on the allegation that Google used cookies, which enable the collection of information from devices. It is claimed that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed ad-tracking cookies on devices using the web browser Safari, despite the app being set by default to block that type of cookie.

The move, known as the Safari workaround, would have enabled Google to run targeted ads on the browser and thereby access revenue. The legal claim focuses on iPhone users but it is claimed that many devices were targeted.

Lloyd said: “In all my years speaking up for customers, I’ve rarely seen such a massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own.” It is estimated that claimants in the legal action could be awarded several hundred pounds each.

Lloyd says Google has told him he must pursue a claim in the United States if he wishes to take the matter further. However, the unprecedented mass legal action is being conducted in the UK by law firm Mishcon de Reya, which specialises in large-scale actions.

Google paid a record $22.5m (£16.8m) in settlement of a case brought by the US Federal Trade Commission regarding the Safari workaround in 2012.

EU report: tax Google on revenue, not profits

An EU report claims that online giants such as Google and Facebook could be responsible for lost tax revenues of up to 5.4bn Euros between 2013 and 2015, according to Reuters.

The EU is considering corporate tax reforms which would require internet companies to pay more in tax. Author of the EU report Paul Tang says the companies “minimize the overall tax burden in the EU by routing all revenues to low-tax member states such as Ireland and Luxembourg.”

This week EU finance ministers will hold a two-day meeting in Tallinn, Estonia to discuss how large online companies can be made to pay more tax on to European nations.

The main focus of the EU report is on Facebook and Google, which is now part of the Alphabet parent company. The two US-based companies record their revenues in Ireland, which enables them to avoid higher taxes applicable in other EU member states.

Google pays taxes of up to 9% of its revenue in countries outside the EU, but within the bloc the figure falls to as low as 0.82%.

France, Germany, Italy and Spain have proposed that companies should be taxed on their revenues rather than their profits. Such a move would also increase taxes payable by Amazon, which also has an EU tax residence in Luxembourg and was largely exempt from tax between 2013-2015.


Facebook agrees to take over Parse

US tech giant Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has agreed to acquire domestic mobile start-up Parse Inc, the companies said in separate blog posts.

The deal, whose terms were not provided, is seen to complete soon, co-founder Ilya Sukhar said in the Parse blog post.

The acquisition follows collaboration between the companies. Facebook will continue offering the solutions of Parse, a cloud-based platform that provides scalable cross-platform services and tools for developers, the pair said.

The Wall Street Journal reported, quoting unnamed insiders, that Facebook was acquiring Parse in a cash-and-stock deal worth some $85m (€65.2m). According to the report, Parse had been raising a funding round which would have given it value of over $50m but Facebook put in an acquisition offer, trumping a lower one, by Dropbox Inc. The start-up was also said to have garnered attention from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo Inc (NASDAQ:YHOO).

WhatsApp dismisses news on takeover by search giant Google

US cross-platform mobile messaging application provider WhatsApp Inc is not in discussions to be taken over by US-based Internet giant Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), head of business development Neeraj Arora told technology blog All Things Digital.

The statement was made in response to speculations regarding ongoing negotiations about a USD1bn (EUR765.2m) deal.

The technology news website Digital Trends said earlier, quoting an insider, that the parties had been negotiating the matter for about four or five weeks, but the target was trying to get more money from Google. According to the report, Google seeks to acquire WhatsApp to fill in a messaging gap in its mobile strategy.

WhatsApp is the number one paid app in over 100 countries. The business may be generating some USD100m in annual revenues, the informed person has said.

In December, Techcrunch cited own sources as saying that social network Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was also holding talks with regard to a takeover of the messaging app.

Regulators investigate Arris’s planned acquisition of Motorola Home from Google

he US Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked for additional information regarding Arris Group Inc’s (NASDAQ:ARRS) planned USD2.35bn (EUR1.8bn) buy of Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Home business, the buyer said.

DOJ’s second request for information will extend the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) waiting period for the acquisition by 30 days, Arris said, adding that it and Google are working with the regulator towards a positive solution.

Arris agreed the cash-and-stock deal for Motorola Home in December 2012, saying it would widen its patent portfolio, helping it to offer next-generation consumer video products and services, while stepping up its capacity to provide new products for broadband to a large range of customers.

The buyer still sees the transaction to wrap up in the second quarter of this year, as planned, it said in its current statement.

Completion remains subject to the HSR clearance, as well as approvals in other countries.

Facebook overtakes Google as the world’s most popular website

Facebook has overtaken Google as the world’s most popular website, with 837 million unique visitors in 2012, according to digital analytics group comScore.

Google, which entered the search engine market in the 1990s and quickly dominated the space, took second place, with 783 million unique visitors.

Of the top ten most visited sites, two are Chinese – and search engine

YouTube ranks number three in the world, attracting 722 million visitors. The video-sharing platform was acquired by Google in 2006.

The highest ranking Microsoft site is, which allows users to access various Microsoft services, such as Hotmail.

Microsoft’s rival Apple is the 16th most popular website in the world, with 172 million visitors.

Here is a list of the top ten most popular websites in the world:




4. ( 469.9m)

5. (469.6m)

6. (389.5m)

7. (284.1m)

8. (271.7m)

9. (268.7m)

10. (254.1m)


UK’s Pace in early talks to acquire Google’s Motorola Home unit

UK set-top boxes manufacturer Pace Plc (LON:PIC) confirmed it had made an indicative, non-binding proposal and was currently in preliminary talks over a potential deal to buy Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Home business unit.

The statement was issued in response to media speculation over an offer from Pace.

The share of the UK suitor were suspended from trading until sufficient information is provided on a potential transaction, or an announcement is made that negotiations ended, the buyer said.

A deal, if reached, would be carried out as a reverse takeover, but there is no guarantee that the ongoing talks would lead to an agreement, Pace explained. Its board would only pursue a transaction if it served the best interest of shareholders, it added.

Reuters cited Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser as saying that, based on how the deal is structured, Google could get a price in the range of billions of dollars for the Motorola Home business. Meanwhile, an earlier report by Bloomberg quoting an unnamed source, said Google was seeking USD2bn (EUR1.5bn) for the unit.

The target business delivered revenues of USD797m and an operating result of USD25m in the third quarter, as Google’s financial results show. It makes set-top boxes for digital and Internet protocol (IP) video, satellite and terrestrial broadcast networks and Internet protocol television (IPTV) distribution systems, broadband access network infrastructure platforms, as well as software solutions for cable TV and telecommunication service providers.

The web search giant bought it as part of its USD12.5bn purchase in May of Motorola Mobility.

Search giant Google continues acquisition spree with VirusTotal deal

US-based online antivirus service provider VirusTotal has been taken over by technology major Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), the target company said in its official blog without providing financial details.

VirusTotal said that through the deal it will be able to enhance the power and speed of its malware research tools. The firm will also benefit from Google’s infrastructure allowing it to improve its service.

The small company will continue to function independently and will keep its collaborations with other antivirus firms and security specialists.

The latest deal follows a string of takeovers Google carried out in 2012. In August, the search engine major took over social marketing start-up Wildfire reportedly paying some USD250m (EUR195.6m). In July, the US technology giant took over France-based email app start-up Sparrow.

Technology-related news provider The Verge cited informed sources as saying that the deal was valued at below USD25m and that Google did not have competition during the acquisition process. A month earlier, Google bought office productivity solutions provider Quickoffice Inc with the aim to integrate it into its Apps product suite.

In May, Google wrapped up its USD12.5bn acquisition of mobile devices maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc (NYSE:MMI). Through the deal, Google gains the ability to boost its Android ecosystem and enhance competition in mobile computing, with Motorola remaining an Android licensee and Android remaining open, the buyer has previously said.