Winter is Coming to US Tech Giants in Europe

Apple’s tax problem from Europe recently caught eyes globally. However, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is not the only trouble maker in Europe. All the FANG – Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Amazon (NADAQ:AMZN), Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) get involved with a plenty of problems in Europe. The problems for those US tech giants go from tax payments to customer privacy. Comply with regulations from both countries and EU is necessary for those companies. Unlike other big US companies, US tech companies who have operations in Europe left the compliance work far behind amazing growth rate. Now those problems again come to the table and this time EU is taking them seriously.

In coming weeks, EU bodies plan to debate new telecom rules that could expand to cover services like WhatsApp, proposed legislation to push news aggregators to pay newspapers for showing snippets of content, and potential audiovisual rules that would force companies like Netflix Inc. to finance European movies.

At the same time, authorities in capitals like Brussels, Paris and Berlin are pursuing investigations involving big companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., related to alleged tax avoidance, anticompetitive behavior and privacy concerns.

“It’s an avalanche coming,” said James Waterworth, vice president for Europe at the U.S.-based Computer & Communications Industry Association, a lobby group that represents Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix. “There’s a political sense from some camps that these big, extraterritorial companies are getting away with things that need to be addressed.”

Privacy is a particularly intense battlefield this time. Less than a year after voting in strict new privacy law, the EU plans this autumn to propose updates to its communications-privacy directive. The update could potentially extend rules now covering phone companies–like anonymizing location data once no longer needed for billing–to online-communications providers.

Competition law will also be a hot topic. Google is set as early as next month to respond to the EU’s formal charges that it has abused the market power of its Android mobile operating system to promote its own search engine and browser, one of several charges it is fighting.

Clearly this time, the government not only wants US tech giants to make a payment but also requires them to make a declaration on operations and managements. Time is different, simply lobbying the governments in Europe works less effectively and US tech companies have to revise their offers. Actually new regulations already started, Uber in January was fined by the French Court on its operations with not only a number but also a criminal charge on Uber’s director in Europe. 

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