Big tech would rather pay fines than comply with rules, says EU's Margrethe Vestager

Apple's App Store logo
The Dutch consumer watchdog has now fined Apple NZ$8.35m five weeks in a row. Photo credit: Getty Images

A European Union (EU) lawmaker says is accusing tech giants like Apple of preferring to pay fines than comply with antitrust rules.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition regulator and European Commission vice president, made the comments in a speech after the iPhone maker was fined 5 million euro (NZ$8.35 million) for the fifth straight week.

The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is fining the Cupertino-based company for each week it fails to comply with its ruling to allow dating apps to use non-Apple payment methods.

The company said it was doing so, but was still charging the dating apps 27 percent commission on top of any additional fees they were facing for using third-party payment providers.

Vestager was speaking about the Digital Markets Act (DMA) which will set rules for big tech which she called "gatekeepers" to ensure fairness in digital markets.

"Effective enforcement, which includes the Commission having sufficient resources to do so, will be key to ensure compliance," she said.

That included gatekeepers being tempted to play for time or try to circumvent the rules.

"Apple’s conduct in the Netherlands these days may be an example," she continued.

"As we understand it, Apple essentially prefers paying periodic fines, rather than comply with a decision of the Dutch Competition Authority on the terms and conditions for third parties to access its app store.

"And that will also be one of the obligations included in the DMA."

Vestager's comments echoed an earlier statement from the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) which said Apple's strategy was to delay change for as long as possible due to the financial windfall.

"Every year of delay is another US$25 billion in revenue. Wouldn't you spend a couple of million on lawyers if you can go on for another couple of years?" CAF representative Damien Geradin told Reuters.

The ACM has said the conditions Apple has imposed on the dating app creators are "unreasonable and create an unnecessary barrier".

It was also "disappointed in Apple's behaviours and actions", saying it had failed to provide enough information to show it was complying with its order.