DMA: Gatekeepers are Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Bytedance, Meta and Microsoft
Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft fall under the regulations of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act as so-called “gatekeepers”. The EU Commission announced this and at the same time listed which companies’ platforms were classified as central.
The social networks TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, the browsers Chrome and Safari, the messengers WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, the video platform YouTube, Google search and the operating systems Android, iOS and Windows now have to implement some far-reaching changes. Otherwise, severe penalties are possible. The app stores of Apple, Google and Amazon are also listed, as well as Google Maps.
The “central platform services”
(Image: EU Commission)
Samsung is not a gatekeeper
Gmail, Outlook.com and the Samsung Internet Browser are not covered by the regulation. For Samsung, this means that the entire company is not classified as a gatekeeper. The EU Commission still wants to examine how to deal with the Bing search engine, the Edge browser and Microsoft Avdertising as well as Apple’s iMessage. Apple and Microsoft had argued that Bing and iMessage were not popular enough to fall under the strict guidelines.
The Digital Markets Act, passed last year, is intended to oblige particularly large providers to enable more competition. The DMA is a competition law instrument – it is intended to prevent large providers from using the so-called lock-in effect to indirectly hinder competition. Central to the definition of gatekeeper is that the offers have a particularly important position in terms of access to end customers.
At the beginning of July, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, Microsoft and Samsung presented their self-assessment that they would probably meet the criteria for the application of the DMA: more than 45 million users in the EU, at least 7.5 billion euros in sales within of the past three years and work in at least three EU member states.
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With the official designation as gatekeeper, the implementation period now begins for companies. The providers must implement the first requirements from the DMA within six months – i.e. by March 6, 2024. Depending on their portfolio, companies have very different obligations: They must provide more access to their “central platform services”.
With the DMA comes a ban on unchangeable forced happiness on end devices: In principle, users should be able to freely choose their software – software that cannot be uninstalled should therefore be a thing of the past. However, there is one notable restriction here: in order to ensure the security of end users, providers should continue to be able to offer options to protect the integrity of the system. The coming months will show how Samsung and Google in particular will deal with this in the Android world.
Big challenge for Apple
The DMA represents an even greater challenge for the relatively closed Apple ecosystem. With the DMA, Apple is not only intended to make access easier for third-party software providers, but also to make its own security mechanisms more interoperable. The federal government, for example, is relying on this opening when it comes to implementing the electronic identity derived from the ID card. The effects of the DMA are also likely to be noticeable on messenger services.
These must make their offers interoperable from the date of designation. The regulations for this take effect gradually: In the first step, the gatekeepers’ over-the-top messengers (legally “number-independent interpersonal communication services”) must enable end-to-end text messages with users of other services. This also includes attachments such as videos, images, voice messages or other files.
In a second step, the named providers must also enable these functions for group communication after two years. In the third and final step, voice calls and video calls must also become interoperable. The level of security should always be that of the respective provider – there was criticism of this in advance. This means that weaker security levels could compromise the integrity of more protected communication channels.
One of the most important additional requirements is the ban on merging personal data from different central platform services. For example, Meta is not allowed to aggregate data from WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. There will also be massive changes in advertising data with the DMA. On the one hand, advertising service providers such as Google Ads must be more transparent, for example when it comes to prices and fees.
On the other hand, the DMA expressly prohibits gatekeepers that offer advertising services and other products from integrating internal data that is not publicly accessible – company-wide. At Microsoft or Google, this ban should cover the entire product range.
In the case of search engines, the application of the DMA is intended to end a long dispute over the question of self-preferential treatment of offers from large companies – the advertised search results could therefore look significantly different in the foreseeable future.
Target other services
The European Parliament rapporteur for the DMA, the CDU politician Andreas Schwab, recently sent a letter to the previously responsible Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager. In it, he calls on the Commission to also take certain functions into account: online map services where specific information can be filtered should also be classified as search engines. In addition, offers would also have to be able to fall under several of the DMA’s categories – for example, be able to be considered a social network and a video platform at the same time.
If companies do not adhere to the DMA’s requirements, they face severe penalties. Up to ten percent of global sales can be due for first-time violations, and even twice as much in repeat cases. Annual fines of five percent are also possible.
Update September 6, 2023 12:24 p.m
Microsoft Advertising is not yet included; wording to the contrary has been removed.
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