Another EU Law Wants to Limit Power of Apple, Google, and Big Tech

The European Union (EU) today began a six-month implementation phase of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is expected to bring unprecedented changes to the way Apple, Google, and other tech giants operate their platforms and services (via BBC).

Rules outlined under the DMA target the dominance of large “gatekeepers” within the tech industry. The legislation, originally proposed by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in December 2020, is meant to encourage and facilitate competition. Apple and Google are both expected to meet the new law’s criteria for “gatekeepers,” as are many others.

The DMA is designed to force large companies to open up their devices, platforms, and services to competitors and developers, and also enable interoperability.

For example, Apple will be forced to allow iPhone and iPad users to install third-party app stores and “sideload” apps, while Google will be prohibited from giving its own services priority over those offered by rivals in search results.

Both companies will be required to let developers use third-party payment systems on their respective app stores. They’ll even need to ensure that communications services (read: iMessage) are interoperable and deliver similar user experiences across platforms. Say goodbye to green bubble discrimination

In addition, the DMA will outlaw gatekeeping hardware and software features from developers and competitors, like what Apple does with NFC on the iPhone.

The European Parliament and the Council agreed upon the DMA in record time, passing it in March 2022. Following its six-month implementation phase, the DMA’s rules will go into effect on May 2, 2023.

“The DMA will change the digital landscape profoundly,” Vestager said in a statement accompanying a European Commission press release.

“With it, the EU is taking a pro-active approach to ensuring fair, transparent and contestable digital markets. A small number of large companies hold significant market power in their hands. Gatekeepers enjoying an entrenched position in digital markets will have to show that they are competing fairly. We invite all potential gatekeepers, their competitors or consumer organizations, to come and talk to us about how to best implement the DMA.”

Once the DMA starts to apply, potential gatekeepers will have until July 3, 2023, to inform the Commission of their core platform services if they meet the thresholds established under the law.

From there, the Commission will determine whether the respective company meets the thresholds to be classified as a “gatekeeper” within 45 working days. All gatekeepers will have until March 6, 2024, to comply in full with the DMA.

Apple has repeatedly and consistently advocated against the disruptive law ever since it was proposed, mainly citing privacy and security concerns. “Some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users,” Apple has said.

Here’s a breakdown of the new rules from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition:

The EU last month also passed a new law that will force Apple to adopt USB-C on the iPhone by 2024.

If the DMA manages to tame Apple, the EU could set precedent for the rest of the world to follow in its footsteps. The U.S. is already on that path, with the House of Representatives introducing a set of antitrust bills earlier this year that would force behemoths like Apple and Google to make similar changes.