The European Union is actively investigating whether several key services from tech giants Microsoft and Apple should fall under the bloc’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to increase competition in the digital sector.
According to an Oct. 10 Reuters report, EU antitrust regulators have sent questionnaires to users and rivals of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Edge web browser, Microsoft Advertising platform, and Apple’s iMessage service. Regulators are seeking input on whether these services should be designated as “core platform services” under the DMA, which would subject them to a host of new obligations.
The move comes after both Microsoft and Apple contested the preliminary designation of these services by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. The talks also follow Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency, recently advocating for balanced AI regulation.
The DMA, agreed to by EU lawmakers in March and goes into effect in May 2023, sets out strict rules for major gatekeeper platforms like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta (Facebook). It aims to prevent anti-competitive behavior and the dominance of a few key players in the digital marketplace.
Core platform services under the DMA are mandated to permit third-party apps and app stores on their platforms, simplify the process for users to change their default apps and services, grant business users access to their marketing or ad performance data on the platform, and notify regulators about upcoming mergers and acquisitions.
Regulators are using these questionnaires to gauge the significance of Microsoft and Apple’s services to both users and competitors. They aim to discern whether specific functionalities of these services are indispensable and challenging to replace.
The Commission asked respondents like Microsoft and Apple’s business clients and competitors to rate services like Bing, Edge, iMessage, and others compared to alternative options. It also requested user statistics for these services.
Sources say respondents were given less than a week to provide their feedback, signaling an aggressive timeline. The DMA requires the Commission to complete such investigations within five months.
The inclusion of Microsoft and Apple services under the DMA could force significant changes to their business models and open up their tightly-controlled ecosystems. Both companies have argued their services shouldn’t be subject to the regulations.
But regulators and policymakers have expressed concerns about concentration in the tech sector and the power wielded by just a handful of Big Tech firms. Ensuring healthy competition in digital markets is a priority for the EU as it leads the charge in policing anticompetitive behavior in the technology industry. The Commission’s request for swift input from a range of stakeholders indicates its seriousness about regulating major platforms under the DMA if it deems regulation necessary.
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