Tag Archive: EU

The US government has sought to intervene in Apple’s appeal against an EU order to pay back up to EUR 13 billion ($14.3 billion or roughly Rs. 95,910 crores) in Irish taxes, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

iPhone maker Apple took its case to the Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe’s second-highest, in December after the European Commission issued the record tax demand saying the US company won sweetheart tax deals from the Irish government which amounted to illegal subsidies.

The decision was criticised by the Obama administration which said the European Union was helping itself to cash that should have ended up in the United States.

The Trump administration, which has tentatively proposed a tax break on $2.6 trillion in corporate profits being held offshore as part of its tax reform, has not said anything in public about the case.

“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,” said the source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The General Court is expected to hear the case in late 2018, another source with knowledge of the matter said.

Apple has said it was a convenient target for the EU and that the EU competition enforcer used an “absurd theory” to come up with a punitive figure.

Amazon and McDonald’s are also in the EU crosshairs over their tax deals with Luxembourg.

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.


Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


EU member states can ban ride-hailing pioneer Uber without informing the European Commission because at heart it is an ordinary transport company under their jurisdiction, a top EU lawyer said Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Uber insists it is a service, not a transport provider, connecting riders with freelance drivers directly and much more cheaply than traditional cab companies.

But critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation and several countries, led by France, have banned its low-cost UberPOP service as a result.

Uber France challenged the ban, saying it amounted to regulation of an information company which Paris should have first lodged with the Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm.

However, Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general with the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, said Uber was in fact an ordinary transport company and so member states could go ahead and regulate its activities without notifying the Commission in advance.

He recalled that in a May 11 opinion on a related case concerning Uber Spain, he had concluded that UberPOP “does not constitute an information society service.”

Szpunar also argued that even if the ECJ, the EU’s highest court, should at some stage determine UberPOP was indeed an information service provider, a ban in response to “the illegal exercise of a transport activity does not constitute a technical regulation within the meaning of the directive.”


“Notification of the draft law to the Commission would not be necessary in that situation either,” he said.

He argued that member states only had a duty to notify the Commission if they took a specific, targeted action against information service providers.

“Rules which affect those services only in an implicit or incidental manner are excluded from the notification obligation,” he said.

The ECJ’s advocate generals – its top lawyers – are regularly called on to provide initial guidance to the court which in most instances follows their advice in its final rulings.

The French authorities banned Uber after violent protests by traditional taxi drivers.

Uber in turn filed complaint with the EU against France and other states, arguing that national policies hostile to its operations violate European law.



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The European Union is set to extend some security rules currently only applicable to telecom operators to web services such as WhatsApp, Skype and Apple Inc’s FaceTime, according to a draft proposal seen by Reuters.

The European Commission, the EU executive, will unveil a proposed reform of its 15-year-old telecom rules next week in which it will extend some provisions to web companies offering calls and messages over the Internet, so-called “over the top players.”

Telecom companies such as Vodafone, Orange and Deutsche Telekom have long complained that web groups including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft and Facebook are more lightly regulated despite offering similar services and have called for the EU’s telecoms-specific rules to be repealed.

Under the draft directive, over the top services will have to ensure the security and integrity of their services, including reporting breaches to authorities and having contingency plans and service continuity strategies.

The proposal is part of a broader drive to level the playing field between European companies and mainly US tech firms.

However the proposal does allow for some of the security obligations to be lighter for services which like, for example, WhatsApp, do not exercise control over the transmission of their services over telecom networks.

“Providers of such services should thus ensure a level of security commensurate with the degree of risk posed to the security of the communications services they provide,” the document says.

“Therefore, whenever it is justified by the actual assessment of the security risks involved, the security requirements … should be lighter.”

Companies will be required to notify national authorities “without undue delay” of a security breach which has a significant impact on the operation of their service.

The Commission has previously said it was considering extending some security obligations to web services given their increasing equivalence to traditional phone calls and text messages.

Over the top services using a number or allowing users to call a number, such as Skype Out and messaging app Viber Out, will also have to offer emergency calls under the new rules.

The Commission will propose giving all European consumers the right to affordable basic broadband, which will enable them to check emails and access online banking, meaning national governments will have to provide public money to ensure universal coverage.

The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states before becoming law, meaning it is likely to undergo changes.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)

The European Union on Tuesday said US tech giant Apple must repay a record 13 billion euros ($14.3 billion or roughly Rs. 95,910 crores) in back taxes after ruling that a series of Irish sweetheart tax deals were illegal.

“The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to 13 billion euros to Apple. This is illegal under EU state aid rules because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid,” a Commission statement said.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Apple’s “selective treatment” in Ireland meant it paid an effective tax rate of just one percent on its European profits in 2003, which then fell to a bare 0.005 percent by 2014.

“The tax treatment in Ireland enabled Apple to avoid taxation on almost all profits generated by sales of Apple products in the entire EU single market.”

Brussels launched an inquiry into Apple’s tax arrangements in Ireland in 2014, one of a series of anti-trust cases targeting major US corporations that have angered Washington.

Apple and Ireland are both expected to appeal.

Apple chief Tim Cook said earlier this month he hoped to “get a fair hearing … If we don’t, then we would obviously appeal it”.

Apple has had a base in the southern city of Cork since 1980 and employs 5,000 people in Ireland where it is seen as a prestige high-tech partner and a valued source of jobs.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)

Apple vowed Tuesday to appeal an EU ruling ordering it to pay a record 13 billion euros in back taxes in Ireland, saying the decision would harm jobs and investment in Europe.

“We will appeal and we are confident the decision will be overturned,” the US company said in a statement after the European Commission decision that Dublin’s tax breaks for Apple were illegal.

“It will have a profound and harmful effect on investment and job creation in Europe.”

Ireland has “no choice” but to appeal against a European Union ruling demanding that US tech giant Apple repay them a record EUR 13 billion ($14.3 billion or roughly Rs. 95,910 crores) in back taxes, the government said alongside Tuesday.

“The decision leaves me with no choice but to seek cabinet approval to appeal the decision before the European Courts,” Ireland Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said in a government statement.
“This (appeal) is necessary to defend the integrity of our tax system; to provide tax certainty to business; and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules.

“I disagree profoundly with the Commission’s decision,” he added.

The EU said Apple had benefited from a series of Irish sweetheart tax deals that were illegal.

“The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to EUR 13 billion to Apple. This is illegal under EU state aid rules because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid,” a Commission statement said.


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Alphabet Inc’s Google appealed on Thursday an order from the French data protection authority to remove certain web search results globally in response to a European privacy ruling, escalating a fight on the territorial reach of EU law.

People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo



In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that people could ask search engines, such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing, to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from web results appearing under searches for people’s names – dubbed the “right to be forgotten”.

Google complied, but it only scrubbed results across its European websites such as Google.de in Germany and Google.fr in France, arguing that to do otherwise would set a dangerous precedent on the territorial reach of national laws.

In February it also started delisting results across all its domains – including Google.com – when accessed from the country where the request came from.

The French regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), fined Google EUR 100,000 ($112,150.00) in March for not delisting more widely, arguing that was the only way to uphold Europeans’ right to privacy.

“As a matter of both law and principle, we disagree with this demand,” Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, wrote in a blog post.

“We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate. But if French law applies globally, how long will it be until other countries – perhaps less open and democratic – start demanding that their laws regulating information likewise have global reach?”

The company filed its appeal of the CNIL’s order with France’s supreme administrative court, the Council of State.

The CNIL has argued that the right to privacy should not depend on the location of a third person and that extending the right to be forgotten to all of Google’s versions does not curtail the freedom of expression because no content is actually deleted — it simply does not appear in search results.

Google accepts around 40 percent of requests for the removal of links popping up under searches for people’s names, according to its Transparency Report.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai met with the European Union’s top anti-trust official Margrethe Vestager on Thursday in an effort to narrow differences ahead of a landmark competition decision on the company.

Pichai, a 43-year old from India, faces the task of improving attitudes towards Google in Europe, where national governments are pushing the EU to take a closer look at its dominance of the search engine market.

A spokesman for Vestager confirmed the meeting, but refused to provide any further details of what was discussed.

European competition officials have been investigating the US tech giant for years over alleged monopolistic practices involving its search engine but a solution has been elusive.

Google is also under fire in Europe for paying extremely low taxes through the use of complex cross-border financial arrangements.

This was the first meeting between Competition Commissioner Vestager and Pichai, the new CEO of Google, and follows a meeting last March with Eric Schmidt, the company’s chairman.

Three successive proposals by Google for an amicable settlement have been rejected and last year Vestager sent the company a “statement of objections” over its online shopping services.

It said Google had diverted traffic from rival price-comparison services like Kelkoo, which operates in several European countries, to favour its own product.

Google responded in late August that Brussels’s findings were wrong and based on a flawed evaluation of the market.

If no agreement is reached and the group is found to have broken EU antitrust rules, it could face fines amounting to billions of dollars. A decision is expected before this summer.

In addition to the initial investigation into Google’s search engine which began in late 2010, the European competition service opened a second probe in April to examine the group’s Android mobile operating system.

This software, used by a wide range of brands, is installed in more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones.

The EU is also reaching out to Google rivals over the company’s advertising practices and an exclusivity deal with Apple.

Pichai became Google’s chief executive officer during a restructuring last year that set up a a new holding company, Alphabet, as Google’s parent.

Google now focuses on its core businesses – online activity, Android, YouTube – while its peripheral interests such as driverless cars are overseen directly by Alphabet.

Pichai also met Gunther Oettinger, the EU commissioner for digital economy, to discuss the digital single market, an ambitious project by Brussels to unify regulation across the 28-nation bloc.

The visit to the EU headquarters was a stop on a European tour by Pichai that included the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and a speech in Paris on Wednesday.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)

European citizens will be “masters” of their personal data after the European Union agreed to a sweeping data protection reform that will give them much more say over how companies use their information, a top EU official said on Wednesday.

Under the new law agreed between EU lawmakers, member states and the European Commission on Tuesday, firms will have to ask for citizens’ unambiguous consent to use their data for activities such as online advertising and could be fined up to four percent of global revenues if they break the law.

The data protection regulation, proposed four years ago by the Commission, the EU executive, replaces 28 different sets of privacy laws in the EU dating back to the 1990s, when the Internet was still in its infancy.

Vera Jourova, EU Justice Commissioner, said it was “high time” the law was updated, both for businesses and individuals.

“Citizens should have more possibilities, more chances to be the masters of their personal data, to be informed on what somebody does with their personal data,” she said in an interview.

Privacy concerns include where data is stored and how companies analyse it and target advertising. While companies such as Google and Facebook already ask for people’s permission to keep and use their data, the current set of laws is less stringent on when people’s permission must be sought.

The new law, which will come into force in two years, also enshrines the “right to be forgotten” whereby Europeans can ask for outdated or irrelevant information about them to be taken down from the web.

Privacy concerns have also risen following revelations by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about U.S. government mass spying programmes.

“We must make sure that the data subject will not change into the data object,” Jourova said.

Guidelines on law next year
The Commission will work with European data protection authorities in the coming year to issue guidelines on the law.

They will clarify what types of companies will be particularly affected and what kinds of data breaches will be subject to fines by regulators, Jourova said.

Stressing that the 4 percent limit for fines was the “last resort”, Jourova said it was important that regulators implement the law consistently in the 28-country bloc.

“It would be bad if an Italian company were sanctioned more than a French one for the same thing,” the Czech politician said.

US tech companies, like Facebook and Google, have had run-ins with national data protection authorities over their privacy practices. But while the fines that regulators can currently levy are paltry compared to the billions of dollars of revenue that the companies earn, the new law dramatically changes that.

James Kinsella, a former Microsoft executive and founder of Zettabox, a European cloud storage company, said companies would have to be more aware of where their data was stored to avoid falling foul of the new rules.

“For business this law has real teeth,” Kinsella said.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)

Google has hit back at EU antitrust regulators’ warning of a possible hefty fine, saying this would be inappropriate because of the unusual nature of the case and its willingness to settle the case with concessions last year.

In its reply to the European Commission’s April charge sheet, the world’s most popular search engine also faulted regulators for not taking into account the fact that it was offering a free search service.

The company’s robust defence came after the Commission accused it of distorting search results to favour its shopping service, harming both rivals and users, following a five-year investigation.

The Commission’s charge sheet, called a statement of objections, said it “would set the fine at a level sufficient to ensure deterrence” if Google was found guilty. Based on its 2014 turnover, this could be as much as $6.6 billion (roughly Rs. 43,299 crores).

The company said there was no basis for a sanction, according to a redacted version of its reply sent to complainants and seen by Reuters.

“Imposing a fine in the present case would be inappropriate. The novelty of the statement of objections’ theory, the selection of the case for commitment negotiation and Google’s good faith participating in these negotiations militate against the imposition of a fine,” the document said.

Google said it should not be charged with abusing its dominance in Europe as it provided a free search service.

“The statement of objections fails to take proper account of the fact that search is provided for free. A finding of abuse of dominance requires a ‘trading relationship’ as confirmed by consistent case law. No trading relationship exists between Google and its users.”

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso declined to comment. Google spokesman Al Verney said the company had nothing to add to comments issued in August.

The document also criticised the EU enforcer for not providing an explanation for rejecting a third package of concessions offered in January.

Third parties have until the end of the month to provide feedback to the Commission before it decides on the case.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)

The United States criticised an EU judicial opinion on Monday that called into question the Safe Harbour transatlantic data privacy system and Washington urged European judges to reach a different conclusion.

The US mission to the European Union said an opinion last week by an adviser to the EU’s top court, backing an Austrian who alleged Facebook passed private data to US security services, “rests on numerous inaccurate assertions about intelligence practices of the United States”.

The original case, brought in Ireland where Facebook and many US tech firms have European headquarters, was partly based on revelations in 2013 by contractor Edward Snowden about US intelligence agencies’ spying on global communications.

In a statement, the US mission said it was concerned about damage to trade and privacy in Europe and the United States and so urged the Court of Justice, which usually follows its advocate general’s advice, to reach different conclusions when it finally rules on the case.

In a trenchant opinion that fuelled American concern about European hostility following a series of antitrust investigations and difficulties in trade negotiations, court adviser Yves Bot said the 15-year-old Safe Harbour agreement did not do enough to protect EU citizens’ private information when it reached the United States and should have been suspended.

But the US mission said: “The United States does not and has not engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of anyone, including ordinary European citizens.”

It added that Bot, who concluded Ireland’s data protection agency was wrong to dismiss Schrems’s complaint on the grounds that the EU said US privacy rules were adequate, did not take account of changes in US policies and efforts by Washington and Brussels to strengthen protections under Safe Harbour.

“We hope that the final judgement of the European Court of Justice takes note of these efforts, inaccuracies in and far-reaching consequences of the Advocate General’s opinion, as well as the significant harm to the protection of individual rights and the free flow of information that would occur if it were to follow the Advocate General’s opinion,” the US mission said.

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)