EU designates DMA gatekeepers, Apple and Microsoft not happy

6 Sep 2023

Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for the internal market. Image: NATO (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Microsoft said that Bing would be unfairly affected by the gatekeeper status because of its relatively small search engine market share compared to Google.

The European Commission has opened investigations to assess claims made by Microsoft and Apple that Bing and iMessage, respectively, should not qualify as ‘gatekeepers’ under the EU Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Tech companies operating in the EU with a market capitalisation of more than €75bn or annual turnover of €7.5bn are included in the scope of the DMA. Those that operate in at least three member states and have at least 45m monthly end users in the EU and 10,000 annual business users are regarded as DMA gatekeepers.

In a statement today (6 September), the Commission officially designated six Big Tech companies covering 22 core platform services as gatekeepers: Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft.

However, the Commission noted that it has opened four market investigations to further assess submissions from Microsoft and Apple arguing that some of the platform services – including Bing, Edge, Microsoft Advertising and iMessage – do not qualify despite meeting thresholds.

According to the Financial Times, Microsoft is arguing that Bing’s relatively small share of the search market compared to Google could only be further diminished if it is compelled to offer users access to rival search engines.

Meanwhile, Apple argues that iMessage does not meet the DMA user threshold of 45m active monthly users and therefore should not have to interoperate with other messaging services.

“Under the DMA, these investigations aim to ascertain whether a sufficiently substantiated rebuttal presented by the companies, demonstrate that services in question should not be designated,” the Commission wrote, adding the investigations should be over in five months.

EU commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton said that the DMA will “open the gates to the internet” with increased choice for consumers and fewer obstacles for smaller competitors to ensure digital markets are fair and open.

“With today’s designation, we are finally reining in the economic power of six gatekeepers, giving more choice to consumers and creating new opportunities for smaller innovative tech companies,” he said. “It was high time that Europe sets the rules of the game upfront.”

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Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for the internal market. Image: NATO via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic