The European Union (EU) is set to unveil its plan this week, targeting major tech players like Apple and Meta (formerly Facebook), as it aims to implement new regulations that will reshape how these companies operate online. With the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the EU seeks to create a fairer market environment, protect European users, and promote competition in an industry that is heavily dominated by US tech giants. This move could potentially pave the way for a new battlefront between European regulators and digital titans, as certain companies, including Apple, are reportedly considering legal challenges against these stricter regulations.
Under the DMA, the largest firms in the tech industry will be required to make significant changes to their operations based on a set of dos and don’ts. Failure to comply may result in penalties of up to 10 percent of the company’s global revenues for breaking serious competition rules, with repeat offenders facing penalties of up to 20 percent. This robust legislation aims to bring about a more level playing field and foster healthier competition in the tech industry.
One of the notable changes expected under the DMA is the provision that mandates interoperability between messaging apps, making it easier for users to share links and images. Enhancing user experience and facilitating seamless communication are key objectives of this particular requirement.
The Identification of “Gatekeepers”
In July, the EU listed seven companies, namely Google (Alphabet), Amazon, Apple, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, Meta (formerly Facebook), Microsoft, and Samsung, as “gatekeepers” based on their self-declared revenue and user figures. The designation of “gatekeeper” applies to services with more than 45 million monthly active users and over 10,000 annual active business users within the EU. The European Commission will now identify which services meet these criteria and will fall under the additional regulations. Amazon Marketplace, Alphabet’s Google Search, and Apple’s App Store are among the expected inclusions in this list.
The EU’s Role in Tackling Big Tech
The EU has been at the forefront of challenging tech behemoths globally. With the DMA and its sister law, the Digital Services Act (DSA), the European Commission aims to arm itself with stronger tools to address the excessive power wielded by these tech giants, which critics argue has been exploited to the detriment of users. Companies named as “gatekeepers” are required to ensure compliance with the regulations by March 6, 2024.
Safeguarding Competition and Limiting Monopolistic Behavior
One of the key objectives of the DMA is to prevent larger tech players from stifling the growth and innovation of smaller companies by acquiring them through takeovers. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, and Google’s purchase of YouTube and Waze serve as examples that prompted the EU to take action. The DMA stipulates that the European Commission, the EU’s potent antitrust authority, must be informed of all takeovers, regardless of size.
Targeting Apple and Their App Store Dominance
Apple, which has faced multiple investigations and hefty fines from the EU in the past, is expected to be a primary focus of the DMA. The new regulations will require the iPhone-maker to allow alternative app stores on their devices, granting users the ability to access software and make payments independent of Apple’s control. Furthermore, the DMA prohibits companies from favoring their own services over those offered by competitors, while also mandating the sharing of key information with business customers.
Experts predict that the DMA designations will likely face legal challenges, similar to those encountered by the DSA. The complexity of the law and the ever-evolving digital landscape make legal disputes inevitable. Alexandre de Streel, academic director of the digital research program at the Centre on Regulation in Europe think tank, noted that some companies may challenge certain designations of their services. This potential for legal battles reflects the complexities involved in implementing new legislation in a rapidly changing digital environment.
Continued Regulation: The EU’s Pursuit of Artificial Intelligence Law
The EU’s efforts to regulate the tech industry are far from over. In addition to the DMA and DSA, the EU is racing to pass the world’s first comprehensive law on artificial intelligence. The urgency to address this issue arises from the rapid advancements in AI technology observed in 2022. As the EU continues to assert its authority in regulating the digital sphere, the landscape for tech giants is set to undergo significant transformations.
The implementation of the Digital Markets Act marks a significant step by the EU to regulate major tech players and level the playing field in the digital landscape. This game-changing law will hold tech behemoths accountable, enhance user experience, create fairer market conditions, and foster healthy competition. While legal challenges are expected, the EU is determined to rein in the power of big tech and safeguard the interests of European users. As the world watches, the implications of the DMA will reverberate throughout the tech industry, setting a precedent for regulatory measures globally.