Opening of the European Union office in San Francisco, after a visit to Apple

A new European Union office in San Francisco has been opened, aimed at better liaising with US tech giants on new antitrust laws…

It follows an earlier visit by members of the European Parliament to a number of US tech giants, including Apple, Google and Meta.

Opening of the European Union office in San Francisco

republic of silicon reports:

The EU has officially opened its new office in San Francisco to liaise with US-based technology companies and improve transatlantic relations in the digital space.

Initially co-located with the Irish Consulate, the aim of the office is to strengthen EU-US cooperation in digital diplomacy and to strengthen the EU’s ability to communicate with public and private actors such as policy makers, business leaders and civil society in the technology sector.

“The opening of the San Francisco office responds to the EU’s commitment to strengthen transatlantic technology cooperation and drive global digital transformation based on democratic values ​​and standards,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy. […]

The office will seek to promote EU standards and technologies, digital policies and regulations. It will also seek to strengthen cooperation with US stakeholders, including the many tech companies located in neighboring Silicon Valley.

The office will be headed by Gerard de Graaf, a senior EU official who played an important role in the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act. These landmark pieces of legislation, passed in July, aim to curb the power of Big Tech and make the internet safer.

Apple threatened by EU antitrust law

Apple once had less to fear from EU tech legislation, which initially focused on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. However, the scope of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) has been expanded to include Apple, Microsoft and other tech giants from an antitrust perspective.

The biggest threat posed to Apple by DMA is that it could force the company to either allow third-party app stores to compete with its own or allow iOS apps to be sideloaded. Indeed, Europe defines the iOS market differently from the US court that heard the Epic lawsuit.

The US court has ruled that the iPhone maker does not have “a dominant position” in the sale of smartphone apps, so it was free to say no to anyone who wanted to run a competing app store. However, European regulators have a different view.

Their view is that the relevant market is for “iOS apps”, and here Apple has a 100% monopoly on their sale and distribution. Edge cases aside, there’s no way for a developer to release an iOS app without selling it through the App Store.

The 9to5Mac take

We noted earlier that the exact implications of DMA are unclear:

Certainly Apple will have to allow developers to use third-party payment platforms and/or direct them to alternative payment options for things like subscriptions. It’s a little less certain that competing app stores will be a requirement, although that certainly seems to be the clear intention.

Whatever the final position on this matter, a second question arose: does the EU have sufficient resources to effectively enforce the law? However, the establishment of an office in the United States certainly signals a clear intention to do so.

The EU can of course only regulate Apple’s activities in the 27 European member states, but US antitrust laws should take a similar stance. The iPhone maker is currently having a bit of a breather, as it looks like a vote won’t be happening anytime soon. With Republican gains likely in future terms, the legislation may be weakened or scrapped altogether.

However, Apple’s appeal against Epic Games will be heard next month, and the Justice Department and 35 state attorneys general are siding with Epic.

Photo: Umer Sayyam/Unsplash

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