U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigating Apple and Other Tech Companies
Apple is facing yet another investigation by U.S. regulators, this time from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB, which is investigating the business practices of companies operating payment systems, today announced that it has asked Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, and Square to provide details on their consumer data practices.
The CFPB is seeking information that will help it better understand how the tech companies "use personal payments data and manage data access to users" to make sure consumers are protected.
"Big Tech companies are eagerly expanding their empires to gain greater control and insight into our spending habits," said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. "We have ordered them to produce information about their business plans and practices."
According to the CFPB, tech companies have developed "new products and business models" during the ongoing global health crisis, which "present new risks to consumers and to a fair, transparent, and competitive marketplace."
As an example, the CFPB says that "Apple and Google have sought to integrate payments services into their operating systems," though there have been no changes on that front to iOS and the iOS App Store during the pandemic.
The CFPB is specifically concerned with data harvesting and monetization and "access restrictions and user choice," which seems to be aimed at Apple and Google.
When payment systems gain scale and network effects, merchants and other partners feel obligated to participate, and the risk increases that payment systems operators will limit consumer choice and stifle innovation by anticompetitively excluding certain businesses. The orders seek to understand any such restrictive access policies and how they affect the choices available to families and businesses.
According to a sample letter [PDF], Apple will need to offer up quite a bit of information, including details on all products, all product features, all product operating manuals, fees to use products, discounts and promotions for each product, and more.
Responses to the CFPB's request must be submitted bu December 15, 2021, so Apple will need to provide the relevant data by that date.