EU trustbusters target Apple’s Siri and other voice assistants

From Reuters’ “Market power of Siri, Alexa, Google a concern, EU regulators say” posted Wednesday:

The market dominance of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Alphabet’s Google Assistant has triggered concerns of potential anti-competitive practices, EU antitrust regulators said on Wednesday…

“We saw indications that some practices that we know too well may lead to tipping and to the emergence of gatekeepers,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

“And from the preliminary results published today, it appears that our concerns are shared by many players,” she said…

The EU antitrust watchdog said respondents cited worries over certain exclusivity and tying practices related to voice assistants such as producers of smart devices being prevented from installing a second voice assistant on a device.

A second concern was about voice assistant providers promoting their own services or those of third parties via default settings on devices, thus restricting rivals.

A third concern focused on the troves of data available to providers of voice assistants and smart devices, while a fourth worry was about the lack of inter-operability between devices.

My take: If a digital platform is a market unto itself, subject to the Sherman Act,  then every digital gatekeeper has a Vestager-size target on its back. I blame Lena Kahn.

13 Comments

  1. Fred Stein said:
    A quick google-search shows a list of top ten voice recognition companies. Notably absent from the list in the headline are Chinese companies.

    I raise this, not as any pro or con “China” agenda. Its just that old ideas of regulation, based on individual country or multi-state alliances are fraught.

    4
    June 9, 2021
  2. Daniel Epstein said:
    Seems to me the problem of companies making devices with multiple voice assistants will ruin the devices usefulness unless there is a uniform programming code for the device! And who would be responsible if the device screws up because the different voice assistant garbled the request. Tower of Babel as legislated by EU!

    5
    June 9, 2021
  3. While I always defer from reposting this eve my bees repeated their wiggles & waggles out front of their hives:
    “We saw indications that some practices we know too well may lead to tipping and to the emergence of gatekeepers,” — EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said about Siri, Alexa and whatever GOOG calls AI today.
    “From the preliminary results published today, it appears that our concerns are shared by many (who??? Why do they get anonymity?) players. It’s too early to say if my inquiry will lead to cases against companies which will be decided after a 12-week long public consultation ending Sept. 1. Report out in 2022.”
    My take, she’s being led by Spotify & knows <.001% of what Siri & Alexa know, wouldn’t mess with budding AI, we’re too close to the Singularity… Arguments supported only by brute force are illogical.

    0
    June 9, 2021
  4. Gregg Thurman said:
    As a regulator Vestager is a failure. Of the many “investigations” (costing 100’s of millions of Euros) she has successfully prosecuted less than a handful of firms of any import.

    6
    June 9, 2021
  5. Gary Morton said:
    At the risk of oversimplifying, the EU recognizes that three companies are aggressively competing in the market for voice recognition services. Has hyper-competitive suddenly become anti-competitive? Perhaps Ms Vestager does not like it because these three virtual assistants from the US are competing so vigorously that no one else can keep up. It is another example of “The world according to Margarethe” to call three competitors fighting a dog eat dog battle in a growing market a monopoly!

    8
    June 9, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      The world according to Margarethe” to call three competitors fighting a dog eat dog battle in a growing market a monopoly!

      An outstanding example of ideology overriding legal precedent and common sense.

      3
      June 9, 2021
  6. Bart Yee said:
    So where was the EU when ARM found itself being sold? Why couldn’t they raise the money to keep its ownership in the EU? Same with Nokia, same with multiple consumer electronics brands sold off to other offshore holding companies, same with parts of their auto industry and electronics makers.

    In the end, despite being a huge first world force, the EU still remains a poor competitor in many global industries especially at home. When they can’t compete, they claim foul and want the money but I never see them investing, building up and supporting their companies within the product fields, only in the courtrooms.

    So you tax companies to get money, what does that do other than enrich countries without them doing anything? Where is the consumer benefit? And where is that money going to help the EU companies improve their products and compete?

    2
    June 10, 2021
  7. Horace Dediu said:
    Sherman? Khan? I’m confused as this is a story about the EU.

    1
    June 10, 2021

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