As the antitrust drumbeat continues to pound on tech giants, with Reuters reporting comments today from the U.S. Justice Department that it's moving "full-tilt" on an investigation of platform giants including Google parent Alphabet, startups in Europe's travel sector are dialing up their allegations of anti-competitive behavior against the search giant. Google has near complete grip on the search market in Europe, with a regional market share in excess of 90%, according to Statcounter. Unsurprisingly, industry sources say a majority of travel bookings start as a Google search -- giving the tech giant huge leverage over the coronavirus-hit sector.
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the Chinese owner of the popular music video app TikTok to sell its U.S. assets, citing national security concerns and delivering the latest salvo in his standoff with Beijing.Trump’s decision came after an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews acquisitions of American businesses by overseas investors. ByteDance Ltd. bought the app Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with TikTok.Trump said in the order released Friday night, which has a 90-day deadline, that ByteDance “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that “Cfius conducted an exhaustive review of the case and unanimously recommended this action to the president in order to protect U.S. users from exploitation of their personal data.”The panel, which is led by the Treasury secretary, includes officials from across 16 government departments and agencies, including State, Defense and Commerce. The White House referred questions to the Treasury Department.“As we’ve said previously, TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is their home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” TikTok said in a statement. “We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”Earlier in August, Trump signed an order threatening penalties on any U.S. resident or company that conducts transactions with TikTok. That order would take effect 45 days after signing, and could prompt a sale before the deadline in Friday night’s order.Microsoft Corp. is exploring an acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations and it’s possible that other potential buyers could come forward, sparking a potential bidding war for the assets.Microsoft said it did not have an immediate comment.Microsoft’s industry peers -- Facebook Inc., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. -- fit the profile of potential suitors, though all are under antitrust scrutiny from U.S. regulators, which would likely complicate a deal.A divestiture also could prove technically challenging since it would require rewriting the codes and algorithms that underlie the platform.(Updates with fresh comments and background, from sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. joined a growing list of developers to publicly criticize Apple Inc. over its revenue-sharing policy for in-app purchases, suggesting the iPhone maker’s fee structure is hurting small businesses during a global pandemic.The social network on Friday rolled out a paid events feature in 20 countries, offering businesses the ability to charge users for access to live video streams, like a yoga class or seminar. Facebook said that Apple didn’t agree to waive its usual 30% fee for all transactions that take place within apps on its devices, and won’t let Facebook process the payments using its own technology for iOS users.Alphabet Inc.’s Google didn’t waive its 30% fee on its Android mobile operating system, either, though the internet search giant will let Facebook process payments through its own product to avoid those costs, said Fidji Simo, the executive running Facebook’s main app. Facebook won’t take a cut of revenue generated from the feature, she said.“We went through our usual channels to suggest strongly to them to waive their fee or to let us use Facebook Pay -- one of the two -- and they declined,” Simo said about Apple in an interview. Simo called Apple an important partner, and said Facebook relies on Apple’s App Store to distribute its own apps, while noting the company disagrees with Apple’s revenue structure.“Helping small businesses recover from Covid is a critical thing that all tech companies should help with,” she said. “The reason we’re calling them out here is we hope they join us and end up waving their fees, so that’s really the goal here.”Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.Facebook’s complaints come a day after Epic Games Inc., the creator of Fortnite, sued Apple and Google after both companies removed Fortnite from their respective app stores over a payment dispute. Epic tried to circumvent Apple and Google’s in-app payments systems to lower costs by avoiding the 30% in-app fee, which was a violation of each company’s rules.Apple gets its 30% commission for digital goods, but doesn’t take a cut for facilitating the purchase of services like in-person classes or ride sharing, as the company requires developers to let users pay with a credit card. Now that in-person business has gone virtual due to the pandemic, Apple’s rules let it charge the fee through its payment network. These App Store charges have been a focus of regulatory inquiries about the company’s market power. At a July antitrust hearing in U.S. Congress, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said, “we will work with people that happen to move from a physical to a virtual world because of the pandemic.”Facebook and Apple have openly criticized one another multiple times in recent years, with Apple working to limit the data Facebook can gather from iOS devices and positioning itself as a stronger advocate for user privacy. In 2018, Cook criticized Facebook’s targeted advertising business model, saying that Apple “could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer -- if our customer was our product.” Shortly after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, when asked what he would do if he were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Cook replied, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”Zuckerberg responded by criticizing Apple’s expensive phones and fees. “I think it’s important that we don’t all get Stockholm syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you,” he told Vox’s Ezra Klein. “Because that sounds ridiculous to me.”In early 2019, Apple temporarily cut access to Facebook’s internal apps, creating chaos at the company, after the social network violated Apple’s App Store guidelines.Facebook has long been wary of Apple and Google, since it must follow each company’s respective rules in order to operate in their app stores. It’s one of the reasons Facebook has started to build its own hardware devices, and why it’s working on software programs for augmented reality and virtual reality. Simo said Friday that Facebook is willing to play by Apple’s rules even if the company disagrees with them. “When developers go circumvent the rules on alternative payment methods, it doesn’t go well,” she said.Facebook has been pushing more aggressively into live video features given the widespread impact of the coronavirus, which has forced people indoors and online. Simo said Facebook had twice as many Facebook Live videos in June as it did one year ago. Facebook’s paid events feature was highlighted by Zuckerberg on the company’s first-quarter earnings call in late April, and has been in testing. Facebook is considering expanding paid events to its videoconferencing feature, called Rooms, and also to its Instagram photo-sharing app.(Updates with statistic on live video in the final paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.