French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced Wednesday that the government plans to sue Google and Apple over the “abusive” contractual terms imposed on developers through app stores. Le Maire told a radio station that he learned Apple and Google unilaterally impose price changes and contractual modifications on developers in the Google Play Store and App Store, which he views as unfair.
“I believe in an economy based on justice and I will take Google and Apple before the Paris Commercial Court for abusive business practices” Le Maire said, according to Reuters. “As powerful as they are, Google and Apple should not be able to treat our startups and our developers the way they currently do.”
The action is based on an inquiry by the French anti-fraud office from 2015-2017, which uncovered a “significant imbalance” in the relationship between Google, Apple, and French companies, a source told AFP. In its report, the anti-fraud office recommended a fine of $2.5 million per company, something echoed by Le Maire, who suggested fines of “millions of euros” might be appropriate.
Large US tech companies have been struggling with regulatory bodies in Europe in the past few years. Tax structures which allow them to funnel all EU profits out of one office (commonly Luxembourg or Ireland) have drawn the ire of the European Union. The French government has been particularly keen to address consumer rights issues, such as the recent iPhone battery problems, while Google has been investigated by the EU over antitrust and privacy concerns.