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France warns Apple over ‘abusive’ practices

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PARIS (AFP) – The French government said yesterday that it would take legal action against Google and Apple over “abusive business practices”, threatening fines that could further strain transatlantic ties as a trade war looms.

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“I believe in an economy based on justice and I will take Google and Apple before the Paris Commercial Court for abusive business practices” against French start-ups, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on RTL radio.

He said in particular that the two US giants imposed financial conditions on French app developers and gathered data on their use, while also saying that “both can unilaterally modify contracts”.

Technology start-ups are a favourite of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has sought to overhaul the nation’s laws and regulations to allow entrepreneurs to flourish.

The action is based on an inquiry by France’s anti-fraud office from 2015 to 2017 which uncovered “a significant imbalance” in their relations with French companies, a finance ministry source told AFP.

“I consider that Google and Apple, as powerful as they are, shouldn’t treat our start-ups and our developers in the way they do today,” said Mr Le Maire, calling the situation “unacceptable”.

The fraud office urged in its report fines of two million euros ($2.5 million) for each company, the ministry source said, though Mr Le Maire said only that they would be “in the millions of euros”.

“My responsiblity is to ensure economic law and order,” he said. “There are rules. There is justice. It should be respected.”

Both Apple and Google declined to comment immediately on Mr Le Maire’s claims.

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