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Gatekeepers under EU DMA: Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, TikTok

Gatekeepers now have until March 2024 to comply with the full list of do’s and don’ts under the Digital Markets Act

The European Commission on September 6 designated the following six entities (and their corresponding services) as gatekeepers under the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA):

  1. Alphabet: Android, Google Search, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Shopping, YouTube, Chrome, and the entire advertising business.
  2. Amazon: Amazon Marketplace, Ads
  3. Apple: iOS, App Store, Safari
  4. ByteDance: TikTok
  5. Meta: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Meta Marketplace, Ads
  6. Microsoft: Windows OS, LinkedIn

These six gatekeepers now have six months to ensure full compliance with the DMA obligations for each of their designated core platform services.

The DMA is a type of ex-ante regulation that, along with the Digital Services Act (DSA), aims at reining in the market power of Big Tech companies by preventing them from imposing unfair conditions on businesses and consumers and opening up their platforms to competitors. For example, major messaging platforms will now have to make themselves interoperable with competitors, and mobile operating systems will have to allow third-party app stores and alternative in-app payment options.

“With today’s designation we are finally reining in the economic power of 6 gatekeepers, giving more choice to consumers and creating new opportunities for smaller innovative tech companies, thanks for instance to interoperability, sideloading, real-time data portability and fairness. It was high time that Europe sets the rules of the game upfront, to ensure digital markets are fair and open.” — Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market

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The Commission is still investigating whether the following services should also be designated:

  • Microsoft: Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising
  • Apple: iMessage, iPadOS

Apple and Microsoft have submitted arguments to the Commission that iMessage and Bing should not be designated because they aren’t popular enough in the EU.

“In addition, the Commission concluded that, although Gmail, Outlook.com and Samsung Internet Browser meet the thresholds under the DMA to qualify as a gatekeeper, Alphabet, Microsoft and Samsung provided sufficiently justified arguments showing that these services do not qualify as gateways for the respective core platform services,” the press release noted.

Next steps for designated gatekeepers

Gatekeepers now have until March 2024 to comply with the full list of do’s and don’ts under the DMA.

Examples of what gatekeepers must do: 

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  • Allow users to uninstall pre-installed apps, change defaults, and provide choice screens for key services.
  • Allow users to install third-party apps or app stores.
  • Allow end users to easily unsubscribe from the core platform services of the gatekeeper.
  • Allow third parties to inter-operate with the gatekeeper’s own services.
  • “Provide the companies advertising on their platform with access to the performance measuring tools of the gatekeeper and the information necessary for advertisers and publishers to carry out their own independent verification of their advertisements hosted by the gatekeeper.”
  • “Allow business users to promote their offers and conclude contracts with their customers outside the gatekeeper’s platform.”
  • “Provide business users with access to the data generated by their activities on the gatekeeper’s platform.”

Examples of what gatekeepers must not do: 

  • Use data of business users when gatekeepers compete with them on their own platform.
  • Rank the gatekeeper’s own products or services more favourably compared to those of third parties.
  • Requiring app developers to use the gatekeeper’s services such as payment systems in order to appear on the app stores of the gatekeeper.
  • Tracking users outside of the gatekeepers’ core platform service for the purpose of targeted advertising, without obtaining consent.

Failure to comply with these rules can attract a fine of up to 10% of the company’s total worldwide turnover, which can go up to 20% in case of repeated infringement. In case of systematic infringements, the Commission can also order a gatekeeper to sell a business or parts of it or ban the gatekeeper from acquisitions of additional services related to systemic non-compliance.

Timeline of implementation

  • December 2020: The Commission proposed DMA.
  • March 2022: The European Parliament and the Council agreed upon DMA.
  • November 2022 to 1 May 2023: Implementation phase.
  • 2 May 2023 to 3 July 2023: DMA started applying and potential gatekeepers notified their core platform services to the Commission if they met the thresholds established by the DMA.
  • 6 September 2023: The Commission designated companies as gatekeepers based on the information provided by them.
  • February 2024: Potential new designations based on ongoing investigations.
  • By 6 March 2024: Gatekeepers notified in September 2023 must comply with the DMA.
  • By August 2024: Gatekeepers notified in February 2024 must comply with the DMA.

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