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Apple iMessage and Microsoft Bing, Edge, and Advertising are not gatekeepers under EU DMA

Apple and Microsoft appear to have successfully argued before the Commission that these services aren’t popular enough in the EU.

The European Commission on February 13 announced that Apple and Microsoft will not be designated as gatekeepers under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) for the following services:

  • Apple’s messaging service iMessage
  • Microsoft’s online search engine Bing, web browser Edge, and online advertising service Microsoft Advertising.

Apple and Microsoft appear to have successfully argued before the Commission that these services aren’t popular enough in the EU.

This would save both companies from numerous obligations concerning these services. Apple, for example, would not have to allow interoperability between iMessage and other messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc., something that Google and others have been demanding for a while given that the iMessage ecosystem dissuades iPhone users from moving to Android phones.

Google expressed its disappointment with this decision. “Excluding these popular services from DMA rules means consumers and businesses won’t be offered the breadth of choice that already exists on other, more open platforms,” Google spokesperson Emily Clarke told The Verge.

The Coalition for Open Digital Ecosystems (CODE), also commented along similar lines: “Today’s surprising decision undermines the objectives of the DMA, as well as its potential to improve choice and contestability for all Europeans.”

Apple’s many other popular services including iOS, App Store, and Safari, however, were designated as gatekeepers on September 6, 2023, and there are no changes to that. In response to this, Apple has made numerous significant changes to its App Store policy and browser policy, but they have been met with criticism. You can read more about them here and here.

Microsoft’s Windows OS and LinkedIn were also designated as gatekeeper services.

Google’s Android, Search, Play Store, Maps, Shopping, YouTube, Chrome, and the entire advertising business were also designated as gatekeepers. Here are the changes the company is making to these services.

TikTok and Meta’s various services (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, Facebook Marketplace) are also gatekeepers, but both companies have filed challenges. While TikTok’s appeal was about the platform as a whole, Meta appealed against the gatekeeper status of Messenger and Marketplace.

What is the DMA: 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. The DMA goes into effect on March 6, 2024.

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 the companies.
  • By 6 March 2024: Gatekeepers notified in September 2023 must comply with the DMA.

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