Transatlantic tussles: EU cases against US firms

October 4, 2017
The EU says Apple owes Ireland 13 billion euros in back taxes
The EU says Apple owes Ireland 13 billion euros in back taxes

The EU's decision to slap Amazon with a multi-million euro tax bill and take Ireland to court for not complying with a landmark case against Apple are the latest in a string of competition cases against US firms.

Here are the main European Union competition investigations targeting the US that Silicon Valley and Washington have slammed as unfair.


In June, the EU hit Google with a record fine of 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for skewing search results in favour of its own shopping service.

This is only one of three concurrent investigations into the US web giant, which controls about 90 percent of the search market in Europe.

In April 2016, the commission also opened a probe into whether Google gives unfair prominence to its own Android apps such as search, maps and music streaming in deals with mobile manufacturers that include Samsung and Huawei.

Then in July last year, Brussels targeted Google's advertising business, saying it had restricted some websites from displaying ads from competitors.

In all the cases, Google risks a fine of 10 percent of worldwide global sales for one year.


Brussels came down hard last year on the world's most valuable company, Apple, ordering it to repay Ireland a record 13 billion euros ($14.3 billion) in back taxes.

The August 2016 ruling found that Apple had benefited from a series of Irish sweetheart tax deals that were illegal.

The US Treasury Department roundly rejected the reasoning of the commission's decision, and Apple and the government of Ireland both filed appeals.

In the wake of the LuxLeaks tax scandal the EU launched further inquiries into the practice of countries offering extremely low corporation tax rates in an effort to attract multinationals.


Brussels on Wednesday ordered Amazon to pay 250 million euros in back taxes linked to an "illegal tax break" that Luxembourg granted the internet shopping giant.

The case hinges on the belief that a tax deal between Luxembourg and Amazon in 2003 constituted illegal state aid, giving the company an unfair advantage over competitors.


In October 2015 the EU ordered US coffee maker Starbucks to repay the Netherlands 30 million euros in back taxes.


The EU launched a formal investigation in December 2015 into tax deals between US fast food giant McDonald's and Luxembourg, saying its preliminary assessment was that the arrangements breached state aid rules.

The case against McDonald's stemmed from a complaint by trade unions and the charity War on Want that accused McDonald's of avoiding around one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in taxes between 2009 and 2013, by shifting profits from one corporate division to another, and paying no local tax in Luxembourg.


In a historic case in March 2013, the European Commission fined US giant Microsoft 561 million euros ($638 million) for failing to comply with an order to provide clients with a choice of internet browsers for Windows 7, as it had promised to do.

It also fined the company 899 million euros in 2008, subsequently reduced to 860 million euros, for failing to comply with an order to share product information with rivals so that their software could work with Windows.


The EU in May fined US social media giant Facebook 110 million euros ($120 million) for providing incorrect and misleading information on its takeover of WhatsApp, imposing its biggest penalty for such a breach.

The admonishment came after EU regulators cleared the then $19 billion Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp in late 2014, a decision that faced criticism in Europe.


Intel, the world's biggest chipmaker, was fined a record 1.06 billion euros in May 2009. The EU says it abused its stranglehold on the semiconductor market to crush its main rival, AMD.

Explore further: Transatlantic tussles: EU cases against US firms

Related Stories

EU to decide Amazon tax break case: sources

October 3, 2017

The EU will on Wednesday decide a landmark case against Luxembourg, which stands accused of giving illegal tax breaks to internet shopping giant Amazon, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

American tech giants under EU cosh

April 20, 2016

US technology giants Google, Amazon, Apple, Intel and Microsoft have all come under the often costly scrutiny of European Union (EU) authorities in Brussels:

Amazon must pay $295 million in back taxes, EU says

October 4, 2017

Amazon has to pay $295 million in back taxes to Luxembourg, the European Union ordered Wednesday, in its latest attempt to tighten the screws on multinationals it says are avoiding taxes through sweetheart deals with individual ...

Recommended for you

Galactic center visualization delivers star power

March 21, 2019

Want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way? Check out a new immersive, ultra-high-definition visualization. This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage ...

Ultra-sharp images make old stars look absolutely marvelous

March 21, 2019

Using high-resolution adaptive optics imaging from the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. The remarkably sharp image looks back into the early history of ...

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.