In another setback for top US tech giants including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft — collectively dubbed GAFAM — has been accused of not paying enough taxes, stifling competition, stealing media content, and threatening democracy by spreading fake news by a European Union court.
The tech giants have been regularly criticised for dominating the market by elbowing out rivals. The EU has slapped a total of 8.25 billion euros in fines on Google for abusing its dominant market position across several of its products.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg will give a ruling on Wednesday on Google’s challenge to a 2.4-billion-euro fine imposed by the EU Commission in 2017 for abusing its power over its rivals in online shopping.
EU has earlier fined Microsoft 561 million euros in 2013 for imposing its search engine Internet Explorer on users of Windows 7. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook are also the targets of EU probes for possible violations of competition rules.
The EU has also unveiled plans for mammoth fines of up to 10% of their sales on tech firms that break competition rules, which could even lead to them being broken up.
Germany, France, Italy, and Spain won a major victory in June when the Group of Seven (G7) agreed to a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent mainly aimed at the tech giants.
“For years they have paid little or no tax through complex tax avoidance schemes,” the EU claimed. In one of the most notorious cases, the European Commission in 2016 found that Ireland granted “illegal tax benefits to Apple” and ordered the company to pay 13 billion euros plus interest to the Irish taxpayer.
After an EU court later ruled in favour of Apple, the Commission turned to the European Court of Justice to appeal. The following year, Amazon was told to pay back 250 million euros to Luxembourg over similar abuses there.
These tech giants are also being criticised over how they gather and use personal data. The EU has led the charge to rein them in with its 2018 General Data Protection Regulation, which has since become an international reference.
Amazon was fined 746 million euros in July by Luxembourg authorities for flouting the EU’s data protection rules. After having fined Twitter nearly half a million euros, the Irish regular opened a probe into Facebook in April after the personal data of 530 million users was pirated.
France has also fined Google and Amazon a total of 135 million euros for breaking rules on computer cookies.