Cloud: Apple, Google and Dropbox in focus by Italian antitrust authority

[German]Italy’s antitrust authority has initiated a formal investigation procedure against the US providers Apple, Google and Dropbox. The proceedings relate to alleged unfair business practices and the possible existence of unfair terms in the terms of contract.


In a press release CV194-CV195-CV196-PS11147-PS11149-PS11150 – Avviate istruttorie nei confronti di Google, Apple e Dropbox per i servizi di cloud computing rom September 7, 2020, L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (Italian antitrust authority) announced this step.

Six investigations against operators of cloud computing services

The Italian antitrust authority has launched a total of six investigations against some of the world’s most important operators of cloud computing services. The parties involved are Google (for the Google Drive service), Apple (for the iCloud service) and Dropbox, each of which is involved in proceedings for alleged unfair commercial practices and/or violations of the Consumer Rights Directive, as well as proceedings for allegedly unfair terms in the contractual terms and conditions.

Unfair practices at Google and Apple?

Lawsuits have been filed against Google and Apple for unfair practices. These relate in particular to the failure or inadequate disclosure of the activity of collecting and using the data provided by the user for commercial purposes. This concerns both the presentation of the service and the possible undue influence on consumers. Consumers are not in a position, when using the respective cloud storage services, to grant or refuse the permission to collect and use information about them for commercial purposes.

Dropbox in focus because of conditions

The same complaints are also addressed to Dropbox. However, the Provider is additionally accused of having failed to provide, in a clear and immediately accessible manner, information on the conditions, modalities and procedures for withdrawing from the contract and exercising the right of withdrawal.

Furthermore, the user is to be denied the simple use of extrajudicial arbitration mechanisms for the settlement of disputes to which commercial companies (according to the DSGVO) are subject, due to the lack of necessary information for access to these mechanisms.


Proceedings due to certain contractual conditions

The procedure for unfair terms, on the other hand, concerns certain contractual terms. These are laid down in the corresponding models of the companies mentioned. This concerns for example the far-reaching right – on the part of the operator – to suspend and interrupt the service. But it also concerns a disclaimer of liability for interruptions, including the loss of documents stored on the user’s cloud space.

However, the antitrust investigation is also concerned with the possibility of a unilateral change in the contractual conditions that companies grant themselves in their service conditions. And, and this is legally interesting, it is about the accusation of the precedence of the English version of the contract text over the Italian version.

While Amazon claims to cooperate with the Italian antitrust authority, the remaining companies have not yet made any statement to this medium. Italy’s antitrust authorities are likely to focus on US technology providers in 2020. End of July the offices of Amazon and Apple were searched because of a separate antitrust investigation in connection with the sale of the popular Beats brand headphones. Also German antitrust authority investigates several cases against US cloud provider like Google.

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