European Union designates big tech firms as ‘gatekeepers’


The European Union has taken a significant step by designating six major tech companies as ‘gatekeepers.’ These companies, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft, are now required to adhere to a new set of regulations aimed at fostering a more open and competitive digital landscape. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in fines of up to 20 percent of their global turnover.

Under the Digital Markets Act, these tech giants have been given a six-month grace period to fully meet the specified requirements, which vary depending on the particular service areas they dominate. The ultimate goal is to create fairer conditions for both consumers and business users, promoting innovation and choice within the market.

European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, emphasized the seriousness of these regulations, stating, “No company in the world can turn a blind eye to the prospect of a fine of up to 20 per cent of their global turnover if they repeatedly break the rules”.

The Digital Markets Act covers ten core areas, with the initial gatekeeper designation applying to eight platform services: social networks, intermediation, messaging apps, advertising, browsers, search engines, video sharing, and operating systems. Notably, virtual assistants and cloud computing services were not included in this initial designation.

Each category of digital service carries its own set of obligations that the identified companies must fulfill by March 2024. These obligations are expected to have far-reaching implications, aimed at increasing competition and breaking monopolistic tendencies within the digital realm.

For operating system gatekeepers like Google Android, Apple iOS, and Microsoft Windows, one key requirement is to allow users to “install third-party apps or app stores that use or interoperate with the operating system”. This could challenge Apple’s ability to lock users into its mobile app ecosystem.

Similarly, advertising gatekeepers such as Google, Amazon, and Meta must provide tools that allow businesses to independently verify the performance of their ads. Additionally, there are obligations concerning data control, especially for businesses, and a mandate for companies to make unsubscribing from their services as easy as subscribing—an effort to curb deceptive practices that trap customers in unwanted subscriptions.

Interoperability is a pivotal aspect of the Digital Markets Act. It mandates messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to enable cross-communication with apps from other providers. Basic messaging between individuals using different platforms must be implemented within the first six months. More complex features like group messaging should follow within two years, and interoperable video and voice chat within four years of the initial designation.

Although only designated messaging services are subject to these interoperability requirements, the EU has indicated its intent to investigate iMessage as well. WhatsApp has already taken steps towards interoperability, with a beta update showing their dedication to complying with EU regulations. In this beta version, there is a dedicated section for third-party chats, signaling Meta’s commitment to allowing users to communicate with WhatsApp users via other apps like Telegram and Signal.


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