Displaying items by tag: EU

France's data watchdog (CNIL) announced a fine of 50 million euros ($57 million) for US search giant Google, using the EU's strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the first time.

Google was handed the record fine from the CNIL regulator for failing to provide transparent and easily accessible information on its data consent policies, a statement said. The CNIL said Google made it too difficult for users to understand and manage preferences on how their personal information is used, in particular with regards to targeted advertising.

“People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We're studying the decision to determine our next steps.”

The ruling follows complaints lodged by two advocacy groups last May, shortly after the landmark GDPR directive came into effect. One was filed on behalf of some 10,000 signatories by France's Quadrature du Net group, while the other was by None Of Your Business, created by the Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems.

Schrems had accused Google of securing “forced consent” through the use of pop-up boxes online or on its apps which imply that its services will not be available unless people accept its conditions of use.

“Also, the information provided is not sufficiently clear for the user to understand the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google's legitimate business interests,” the CNIL said.

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South Korea and EU approve Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP

Written on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 13:35

Qualcomm announced that the European Commission and the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) have authorized the acquisition of NXP Semiconductors. The acquisition has now received 8 of the 9 approvals around the world, with China remaining.

Telecom Review reported in November 2017 that Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP was set to receive European Union approval, after the company said it would maintain licensing terms for NXP’s MIFARE technology, used in swipe cards for the London tube system. Qualcomm also said it would commit to ensure NXP chips remain interoperable.

Qualcomm said in a statement that it has cooperated with the European Commission and the KFTC and agreed to all conditions required by the agencies to obtain their authorization. Qualcomm committed to exclude certain near-field communication (NFC) patents from the proposed transaction and ensure that NXP licenses those patents to third parties.

Qualcomm also committed not to assert the NFC patents it will acquire from NXP and maintain interoperability between Qualcomm’s baseband chipsets and NXP’s NFC chips and rivals baseband chipsets and NFC chips. Qualcomm also confirmed it will continue to offer a license to MIFARE on terms commensurate with those offered by NXP.

“We are pleased that both the European Commission and the Korean Fair Trade Commission have granted authorization of the NXP acquisition, and we are optimistic that China will expeditiously grant its clearance,” said Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated.

“Acquiring NXP is complementary to Qualcomm’s global portfolio, providing tremendous scale in automotive, IoT, security and networking and will greatly accelerate our ability to execute and create value in new and adjacent opportunities,” Mollenfopf added.

The European Commission expressed concerns in 2017 about Qualcomm's acquisition of NXP - announced in October 2016 - that the tie-up could lead to increased prices and reduced innovation in the semiconductor industry. Qualcomm offered in October 2017 concessions to move forward with the deal, but both Qualcomm and NXP warned that it could be delayed due to regulatory scrutiny.

However, winning EU and Korean approval is a big boost for the proposed merger. It is significant for Qualcomm in its bid to fend off acquisition advances from Broadcom, after the company rejected Broadcom's $130 billion offer.

According to Bloomberg analyst Anand Srinivasan, getting approval from the EU will be a relief for Qualcomm, as adding an automotive chip business in the form of NXP gives "it a much bigger and more diverse empire to oversee." Srinivasan believes the addition of NXP to Qualcomm's portfolio could see it convincing investors that Qualcomm has the right strategy to avoid Broadcom's advances.

Qualcomm announced on November 13 that its Board of Directors had "unanimously" rejected the unsolicited proposal by Broadcom on November 6. Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Qualcomm Incorporated, said the proposal "significantly undervalues Qualcomm" relative to its leadership in mobile technology and future growth prospects.

Published in Telecom Vendors

France is leading a push to increase the taxation of tech giants in Europe, backed by Germany, Italy and Spain. The countries’ finance ministers said in a joint letter that they want multinational technology companies like Google and Amazon to be taxed based on their revenues in Europe, rather than only profits as now.

Other European nations have expressed their support for the tax change, Reuters reported, because of the low tax they receive under the current international rules. Some nations are missing out on their share because tech giants are often taxed on profits booked by subsidiaries in Ireland, a low-tax haven, even though the revenue generated came from other EU countries.

In the letter written by the four European finance ministers it says, “We should no longer accept that these companies do business in Europe while paying minimal amounts of tax to our treasuries.”

The letter, seen by Reuters, was sent to the European Union’s Estonian presidency with the bloc’s executive Commission in copy. It was written by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Wolfgang Schaeuble of Germany, Pier-Carlo Padoan of Italy, and Luis de Guindos of Spain.

In the letter the ministers express the need to create an “equalization tax” on turnover that would bring taxation to the level of corporate tax in the country where the revenue was generated. The ministers said, “The amounts raised would aim to reflect some of what these companies should be paying in terms of corporate tax.”

The ministers will reportedly present their case to other EU counterparts at a meeting in Tallinn from Sept. 12-16. A discussion has been scheduled by the EU’s current Estonian presidency to consider the concept of “permanent establishment” with the goal of being able to tax companies on where they generate their revenue, not only where they have their tax residence.

France has faced setbacks trying to obtain payments for taxes on tech giants’ activities in the country, hence its move to put pressure on the EU to change tax rules. In July a French court ruled that Alphabet’s Google should pay 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in back taxes because it has no “permanent establishment” in France but ran its operations there from Ireland.

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Finnish telecommunications firm Nokia has announced that it has launched its 5G Mobile Network Architecture - which is a research project consisting of 14 major partners, that includes Huawei, Telecom Italia and Samsung.

The innovative research initiative will last for a period of two years and will have a budget of €7.7M. The program aims to focus on using network slicing to accelerate pre-standard 5G use cases in a range of areas such as media, automotive and healthcare. In a statement released by Nokia, the telecommunication colossus said it planned on bringing the 5G mobile network architecture from concept to the real world.

The statement read, "As 5G networks need to simultaneously support various services with different requirements, network slicing will be a crucial aspect of the network architecture, providing flexible and adaptive networks which fulfill the 5G requirements.

The consortium of partners involved in the project will involve mobile network players from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The collaboration will be crucial in order to utilize technical know-how required to turn the project's vision into reality and will include two real-world test bed implementations.

The formation of this project is the second-phase of the EU-backed 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G-PPP). The EC first publicly disclosed the initiative back in December 2013, in which it announced that it planned to invest €700M through its Horizon 2020 program.

Head of end-to-end mobile networks solutions at Nokia Bell Labs, Peter Merz, declared that Nokia was fully committed to the EU-backed infrastructure initiative. Merz said, "Nokia is fully committed to the 5G-PPP: we have delivered know-how and innovative technologies since its launch in 2015 in order to strengthen the European 5G footprint."

In addition to this latest announcement from Nokia, the Finnish telco last month indicated its ambition to broaden its focus on early 5G mobility use cases, which was done in response to growing interest in technology from operators in the US, China, Japan and South Korea ahead of expectations of global deployment in 2019.

Published in Telecom Vendors

The European Union has increased pressure on US technology leaders Facebook, Twitter and Google in relation to its user terms. The EU has requested that they amend their user terms in order to make them compliant with current EU law - after EU lawmakers deemed the proposals submitted by the technology giants as ‘insufficient’.

In June, the European Commission (EC) and consumer protection authorities in the EU wrote directly to Facebook, Google and Twitter in which they stressed to the technology companies that they need to improve their proposed changes to user terms by the end of September.

The EU has the power to impose fines if Facebook, Twitter and Google fail to comply with the request issued. Twitter has thus far not responded to an e-mailed request for a comment from Reuters, whilst Google declined to comment on the ongoing situation. However, Facebook believes that it is compliant with current EU law, but conceded that its terms could be formatted in a way which was easier to understand and would work to meet the authorities concerns.

The concerns are concentrated mainly on procedures the social media entities propose to set up for the removal of illegal content on their websites, some analysts have claimed that the terms limit their liability and allows them unilaterally to remove content posted by users.

The US technology trio has been given a deadline of July 20th to submit new proposals, which need to be implemented by the end of September. A source close to the case has claimed that two of the companies had submitted amended proposals, while a third had asked for more time, declining to specify which one.

Facebook, Google and Twitter agreed to the proposed changes touted in March amidst concerns raised by European regulators in March of this year. One of the main issues centered on the terms which forced European consumers to seek redress in California, where the companies are all headquartered, instead of the consumer’s home address.

US technology firms have previously faced scrutiny over the way it conducts its business in Europe, ranging from issues such as privacy, to illegal or threatening content. Both the consumer protection authorities and the EC has requested that the trio provide more details on the timeframe and deadlines it will apply in relation to dealing with notifications of content deemed illegal under consumer law.

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The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how Europe should promote digital innovation in health and care, for the benefits of citizens and health systems in Europe.

The input will feed into a new policy Communication to be adopted by the end of 2017, as announced in the recent review of the Commission's Digital Single Market strategy.

“We are dedicated to improving European citizens' quality of living by improving Europe's health, care and research systems by using digital technologies to their full potential,” stated Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioners Vytenis Andriukaitis, Mariya Gabriel and Carlos Moedas.

“This consultation will help us identify ways to offer citizens, medical professionals and researchers better access to health data, prevention, rapid response to pandemic threats, personalized treatments and care,” the statement added.

“We are considering new digital initiatives to deliver on the free movement of patients and data, to support the modernization of national health systems, and to bring together scattered evidence and innovative knowledge from across Europe. At the heart of our policies, citizens and their wellbeing are our first priority.”

The consultation will collect information on three main pillars, including citizens' secure access to their health data and the possibility to share it across borders, clarifying citizens' rights and enhancing interoperability of electronic health records in Europe.

It will also focus on connecting and sharing data and expertise to advance research, personalize health and care, and better anticipate epidemics. Finally, it will focus on using digital services to promote citizen empowerment and integrated person-centered care.

Citizens, patient organizations, health and care professionals, public authorities, researchers, industries, investors, insurers and users of digital health tools are all invited to share their views via EU Survey until 12 October 2017. 

Demographic change, growing prevalence of chronic diseases, re-emergence of infectious diseases and the rising cost of healthcare poses major challenges for healthcare provisions in Europe.

The Communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems concluded that the Member States' future ability to provide high-quality healthcare to all citizens will depend on making health systems more resilient, while remaining cost-effective and financially sustainable.

Digital innovation can offer cost-effective tools to support the transition from a hospital-based healthcare model to a person-centered and integrated model, improve health promotion, prevention and access to care, and contribute to the sustainability and resilience of healthcare systems, the European Commission claims. It can make effective the right for citizens to access their health data everywhere in Europe.

It can also help improve surveillance and early detection of infectious outbreaks. It can drastically advance the diagnosis and treatment of patients. For instance, in the area of rare diseases, the current average time for diagnosing a known rare disease of 5.6 years could be shortened to one year thanks to molecular diagnosis and tele-consultations with specialists.

Furthermore, the digital transformation of health and care stimulates the empowerment of citizens allowing them to manage their own health and interact more easily with health providers.

The Digital Single Market Mid-term Review tackles these issues. It proposes that the Commission addresses the need and scope for measures on digital health and care, in line with legislation on the protection of personal data, patient rights and electronic identification.

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US technology colossus and global search engine giant Google has avoided paying a whopping €1.1 billion tax bill in France after a Parisian court ruled in its favour. The court’s decision was a welcome reprieve for the Californian based entity, as the ruling comes just weeks after Google was fined by the European Commission (EC).

Google’s legal row in relation to this tax bill has dragged on for six years, but a Parisian administrative tribunal ruled that Google was not liable to pay five years worth of back taxes which was being sought by France’s tax authorities. The tribunal found that Google’s advertising saes business had no taxable presence in the country.

The Wall Street has claimed that the French court’s decision could have implications for the other tax battles that Google are currently embroiled in Europe and other parts of the world. In its summary of its findings, the Parisian court concluded that Google did not illegally evade French tax by routing sales in the country through the Republic of Ireland. Google’s European headquarters is in Ireland - and they ruled that Google could not be taxed if it also has a permanent base in France.

Google reiterated its commitment to France by vowing to support the growth of its digital economy. In a statement issued by the US firm, which employs 700 people in France – they suggested that the decision by the court confirms that it abides by French tax law and international standards. The statement read, “We remain committed to France and the growth of its digital economy.”

However, France’s Minister of Public Action and Accounts, Gerald Darmanin, claimed that the tax authority may yet appeal the decision made by the administrative panel. In the meantime, the court’s decisions eased recent pressure on Google across Europe. The European Commission fined the organization €2.4 billion a fortnight ago, it said it abused its market dominance as a search engine, and illegally promoted its own shopping comparison website.

In addition to this, reports have circulated that the EU may fine Google over its Android operating system, which last year was accused of stifling innovation and market competition by the EU competition commissioner.

A number of other European countries have also attempted to claim back taxes from Google. In Spain, authorities raided Google’s offices in 2016, while the company also agreed to pay €306 million in Italian back taxes earlier this year.

Published in Finance

US government is set to intervene into the long-running saga between technology giants Apple, the EU and the Irish government. The EU ordered the iPhone maker to pay back €13 billion in taxes it claimed it owed Ireland.

However, in a bizarre turn of the events the Irish government rejected the EU’s ruling that it was owed €13 billion in back taxes and said that Apple hadn’t breached any tax laws in Ireland. The EU insisted that Apple had secured favorable tax incentives from the Irish government which amounted to illegal subsidies and issued the record tax demand against the US tech leaders.

Apple decided to take its case to Luxembourg-based General Court, which is Europe’s second highest in December in light of the ruling by the EU. The decision by the EU was heavily criticized by the Obama administration which alleged that the EU was attempting to help itself to cash that should have ended up in the US.

The Trump administration has subsequently proposed a tax break on $2.6 trillion in corporate profits being held offshore as part of its own tax reform, although it has not stated anything in public in relation to Apple’s tax row with the EU.

A source close to the case that who wishes to remain anonymous confirmed that the US had filed an application with the EU in relation to the long-running saga between Apple and EU decision-makers. The source said, “I can confirm the United States filed an application with the European Union General Court to intervene in the case involving the retroactive application of state aid rules to Apple.”

It has also been reported that The General Court will deal with the case in late 2018, although that has not been officially confirmed. Apple firmly believes that it is a convenient target for the EU and that EU competition enforcer used an ‘absurd theory in coming with the punitive figure. Other companies currently embroiled with the EU in relation to tax issues in Luxembourg are Amazon and McDonalds.

Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Starbucks, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and several other companies that were also ordered to pay back taxes to other EU countries have similarly challenged their EU rulings.

Published in Government

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections alleging that multinational telecommunications company Altice (the Netherlands), breached the EU Merger Regulation by implementing its acquisition of telecommunications operator PT Portugal before notification or approval by the Commission.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "If companies jump the gun by implementing mergers prior to notification or clearance, they undermine the effective functioning of the EU merger control system. The Statement of Objections sent to Altice shows how seriously the Commission takes breaches of the rules designed to protect the merger control system.”

The EU's Merger Regulation requires that merging companies notify transactions prior to their implementation ("the notification requirement"), and do not implement transactions unless and until they have been notified and cleared by the Commission ("the standstill obligation").

The obligation to notify concentrations prior to their implementation safeguards the Commission's ability to detect and investigate concentrations. The standstill obligation prevents the potentially negative impact of transactions on the market, pending the outcome of the Commission's investigation. The early implementation of transactions in breach of EU merger review procedural obligations is a very serious infringement, as it undermines the effective functioning of the EU merger control system.

Compliance with these obligations is essential for legal certainty, enables the Commission to conduct a correct analysis of the impact of mergers in the market and prevents the potentially detrimental impact of transactions on the competitive structure of the market. In this way, market forces work for the benefit of consumers.

In February 2015, Altice notified the Commission of its plans to acquire PT Portugal. The Commission cleared the transaction subject to conditions on 20 April 2015.

In the EC’s Statement of Objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Altice actually implemented the acquisition prior to the adoption of the Commission's clearance decision, and in some instances, prior to its notification.

In particular, the Commission considers that the purchase agreement between the two companies put Altice in a position to exercise decisive influence over PT Portugal before notification or clearance of the transaction, and that in certain instances Altice actually exercised decisive influence over PT Portugal.

Such behavior, if established, would be in breach of the company's obligations under the EU Merger Regulation to respect the notification requirement and the standstill obligation. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.

If the Commission were to conclude that Altice did implement the transaction prior to its notification or prior to adoption of the clearance decision, it could impose a fine of up to 10% of Altice's annual worldwide turnover.

 On 9 December 2014, Altice entered into a transaction agreement with Oi, the Brazilian telecommunications operator which controlled PT Portugal, with a view to acquiring sole control over PT Portugal. On 25 February 2015, Altice notified the Commission of its intention to purchase PT Portugal. On 20 April 2015, the Commission adopted a clearance decision declaring Altice's acquisition of PT Portugal compatible with the common market, subject to conditions.

At the time of the notification, Altice's Portuguese subsidiaries Cabovisão and ONI were competitors of PT Portugal for telecommunications services in Portugal. The Commission had concerns that the merged entity would have faced insufficient competitive constraints from the remaining players on the market for fixed telecommunications. This could have led to higher prices for clients. The decision was therefore conditional upon Altice's divestment of both ONI and Cabovisão.

The ongoing procedure against Altice for early implementation has no impact on the Commission's April 2015 decision to approve the transaction, subject to conditions.

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The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding commitments offered by Amazon. The commitments address the Commission's preliminary competition concerns relating to a number of clauses in Amazon's distribution agreements with e-book publishers in Europe.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Today's decision will open the way for publishers and competitors to develop innovative services for e-books, increasing choice and competition to the benefit of European consumers. Amazon used certain clauses in its agreements with publishers, which may have made it more difficult for other e-book platforms to innovate and compete effectively with Amazon. We want to ensure fair competition in Europe's e-books market worth more than 1 billion euros."

With the EC’s decision, Amazon will no longer enforce or introduce these clauses in agreements with publishers. These commitments will contribute to fair competition in the platform economy, says the European Commission.

The Commission opened an investigation in June 2015 because it had concerns about clauses included in Amazon's e-books distribution agreements that could have breached EU antitrust rules. These clauses, sometimes referred to as "most-favored-nation" clauses, required publishers to offer Amazon similar (or better) terms and conditions as those offered to its competitors and/or to inform Amazon about more favorable or alternative terms given to Amazon's competitors.

The clauses covered not only price but many aspects that a competitor can use to differentiate itself from Amazon, such as an alternative business (distribution) model, an innovative e-book or a promotion.

The Commission considered that such clauses could make it more difficult for other e-book platforms to compete with Amazon by reducing publishers' and competitors' ability and incentives to develop new and innovative e-books and alternative distribution services. The clauses may have led to less choice, less innovation and higher prices for consumers due to less overall competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) in e-book distribution.

Amazon has sought to address the Commission's concerns by offering not to enforce, introduce or to change the terms of its agreements with publishers. It amended its proposal following feedback received from interested parties on the suitability of Amazon's originally proposed commitments.

On May 4, the Commission concluded that the amended final version of the commitments offers a timely, effective and comprehensive solution to the competition concerns it had identified. They will help ensure that innovation for e-books by publishers and other third parties can benefit companies other than Amazon and protect effective competition for e-books to the benefit of consumers.

More specifically, Amazon has offered the following commitments:

  • Not to enforce (i) relevant clauses requiring publishers to offer Amazon similar non-price and price terms and conditions as those offered to Amazon's competitors or (ii) any such clauses requiring publishers to inform Amazon about such terms and conditions. The commitments cover in particular provisions related to alternative/new business models, release date and catalogue of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency price, agency commission and wholesale price.
  • To allow publishers to terminate e-book contracts that contain a clause linking discount possibilities for e-books to the retail price of a given e-book on a competing platform (so-called Discount Pool Provision). Publishers are allowed to terminate the contracts upon 120 days' advance written notice.
  • Not to include, in any new e-book agreement with publishers, any of the clauses mentioned above, including Discount Pool Provisions.

 

The commitments apply for a period of 5 years and to any e-book in any language distributed by Amazon in the EEA. If Amazon were to breach the commitments, the Commission could impose a fine of up to 10% of Amazon's total annual turnover, without having to find a violation of the EU competition rules.

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