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France Will Sue Google, Apple Over Software Developer Treatment
By Seung Lee
Posted: March 15, 2018 9:57am PDT

A French government minister is planning to sue Google and Apple over alleged "abusive commercial practices" that take advantage of French software developers.

France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday in a radio interview that French software developers who create applications for either Google Play Store or Apple App Store have seen unilaterally imposed prices and changes to their contracts by the Silicon Valley giants.

"I learned that when developers develop their applications, and sell to Google and Apple, their prices are imposed, Google and Apple take all their data, Google and Apple can unilaterally rewrite their contracts," Le Maire said on RTL radio, according to Bloomberg.

France's consumer fraud watchdog agency DGCCRF confirmed that they were launching an investigation of Google and Apple, according to Reuters. Le Maire said the fine against the two companies could be millions of euros, according to Bloomberg.

"As powerful as they are, Google and Apple should not be able to treat our startups and our developers the way they currently do," said Le Maire, according to Reuters.

Le Maire, who was appointed last year to his position by President Emmanuel Macron, has been targeting American technology giants in his first year in office. In December, Le Maire's office filed a complaint against Amazon for allegedly abusing its suppliers with lopsided contract clauses and sought a record EUR10 million fine.

In the past few years, France maintained a schizophrenic relationship with American tech giants, both wooing them to build more operations in the country but also pursuing litigation and performing office raids against them for alleged consumer fraud abuses and tax evasion.

In January, the DGCCRF launched a probe against Apple over whether it deliberately phased out older iPhones to force customers to upgrade to a newer model. In France, "planned obsolescence" -- the practice of a device maker purposefully shortening the life of the product to pressure users to upgrade to a newer model -- is illegal and can carry heavy fines and jail terms for its executives.

In 2013, French authorities raided Apple's stores and distributors in France in a probe into the Cupertino tech giant's resale practices.

In 2016, authorities raided Google's Paris-based office over suspicion of tax evasion.

Earlier this month, Le Maire told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that the European Union was planning a new tax rate for tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon later this month after years of frustration that the companies were paying too little tax from European profits by rerouting the revenues into low-tax havens like Luxembourg and Ireland.

"It will be a considerable step," said Le Maire to Le Journal du Dimanche, according to a separate Reuters report. "The (tax rate) range is 2 percent to 6 percent, we will be closer to 2 percent than 6 percent."

© 2018 San Jose Mercury News. Syndicated here under contract with YellowBrix, Inc. All rights reserved.

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