Apple could be fined up to $26 billion as EU investigates Siri
Children are told often that when they fall off their bikes, the best thing to do is to get right back on them and ride again. And the same advice is apparently taught to adults. Take European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Just yesterday Vestager had a ruling go against her as a lower European Union court in Luxembourg found in favor of Apple in a case involving $14.9 billion in back taxes that the EU claimed that Apple owed Ireland. From 1991-to 2005, Apple paid little to no taxes on profits it made doing business in the country.
But Vestager has climbed back on the horse and is looking for information from 400 companies to see if there are any issues with voice assistants such as Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant, and Amazon's Alexa that could result in the filing of antitrust charges. Such inquiries have lead to cases and hefty fines imposed against other industries including energy, financial, and pharmaceutical firms.
Vestager told a news conference that by seeking information from 400 companies, it gives Apple, Amazon, and Google the message that the EU is watching them closely to make sure that they toe the line. The commissioner said that the UK became interested in investigating the voice assistants because of the large amount of consumer data used in "Internet of Things" devices. the EU wants to make sure that the leading players in the voice assistants game don't use their control of this data to break rules, prevent competition, and harm rivals. Vestager said, "Interoperability is of the essence if we want to make this market accessible."
If the EU finds that one of the companies' voice assistants broke rules regarding competition, it can be fined up to 10% of its global revenue. For example, Apple had revenue of approximately $260 billion for its latest fiscal year. That means that it could be fined as much as $26 billion if found to have broken EU rules.
There is no guarantee that Vestager and her team will find any issues that require the EU courts to get involved. And it will probably take some time to complete the investigation. So with this in mind, all we can add at this juncture is "stay tuned."