Apple ‘worse’ than Google, will be the next antitrust target

Apple will be the next major target in America’s latest crackdown on big tech, IAC CEO Joey Levin predicted on CNBC on Friday.

Levin said on “Squawk Box” that he believes “Apple is next, and I think Apple is, in many ways, worse” than Google, which was sued this week by a group of state attorneys general. The AGs alleged that the Alphabet unit abused its power over application developers through its Play Store on Android.

Apple has “forced companies into the system,” said Levin, whose firm operates Internet properties like Angi, which has apps on Apple’s App Store. “They have a monopoly, there is no way around it. And the rates are exorbitant, and that reaches everyone ”.

Apple has strongly defended its policies, saying that the money it makes from commissions goes towards maintaining and securing the App Store in a way that ultimately benefits app makers.

US attorneys general “got it right” with their new lawsuit against Google, Levin added, speaking with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin of Sun Valley, Idaho, where CEOs of technology and media returned for an influential annual conference after last year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus. pandemic.

Representatives for Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Attorneys general from 36 states and the District of Columbia from both sides are challenging Google in an antitrust lawsuit. The case is the fourth antitrust lawsuit filed against Google by government officials in the past year.

In a blog post addressing the new lawsuit, Google said the action ignores Google’s choice on Android and the company’s Play Store.

Regulators similarly go after Apple, which is also being persecuted with legal challenges and similar accusations of unfairly receiving a large chunk of developers for payments through its apps from customers, and accusations that the company favors your own applications over those of your rivals.

Barry Diller, president of IAC and Expedia, told CNBC in May that Apple overcharges companies that have apps on the iPhone maker’s App Store “in a disgusting way.” Apple charges a 30% commission rate on in-app transactions for large companies and 15% for certain smaller developers.

The lawsuit against Google is the latest in a series of challenges against major tech players, and President Joe Biden is also set to sign a new executive order aimed at reforming corporate consolidation and antitrust laws.

“I think the world could use the competition. I think the world could use some regulations around the scale of these businesses now, there is a lot of power concentrated in very few hands, ”Levin said, adding that it is a complicated job to implement regulations as they often favor the incumbent. “It will be good for innovation, if they can get it right.”

However, the CEO does not believe that antitrust legislation will affect IAC’s ability to expand, saying the company has spun off all of its large companies, including Match Group and Vimeo, and is focused on rebuilding by acquiring “new business. in new areas ”.

Looking ahead, Levin said the IAC incubator is setting its sights on the development of blockchain and smart contracts, calling the technology an “exciting new wave of transformation.” Blockchain, which stores data in blocks that are then chained together, is the digital ledger behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are smart contracts that uniquely certify digital assets.

“What I think we will probably do is evolve the incubator to focus exclusively or significantly on things that involve blockchain and smart contracts,” Levin said. “New companies will be formed and new ideas or approaches will be formed, and I think we would like to start experimenting there.”

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