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Apple, Microsoft: Excluded from Digital Markets Act

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Apple and Microsoft will not be designated as gatekeepers for certain platform services under the Digital Markets Act, according to an announcement from the European Commission.

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) is landmark EU legislation that addresses companies that have attained a dominant position in crucial segments of the internet economy, acting as ‘gatekeepers’ between business users and consumers.

After the Commission conducted a comprehensive evaluation, considering feedback from stakeholders, and following consultation with the Digital Markets Advisory Committee, it determined that Apple’s messaging service iMessage and Microsoft’s search engine Bing, its browser Edge, as well as its online advertising service Microsoft Advertising, do not meet the criteria to be classified as gatekeeper services.

This assessment was conducted after September last year when the Commission decided that the rebuttal requests put forth by Apple and Microsoft should be examined.

“We welcome the Commission’s decision to exempt Bing, Edge, and Microsoft Advertising, which operate as challengers in the market. We will continue to engage with the Commission and industry at large to ensure Microsoft’s other designated platforms comply fully with the DMA,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

“We thank the Commission for agreeing that iMessage should not be designated under the DMA”, said Apple.

“iMessage is a great service that Apple users love because it provides an easy way to communicate with friends and family while offering industry-leading privacy and security protections. Consumers today have access to a wide variety of messaging apps and often use many at once, which reflects how easy it is to switch between them,” Apple added.

Gatekeepers list

In September 2023, the European Commission designated six companies as gatekeepers: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft. There are 22 designated ‘core platform services’ that hold sway over specific digital markets, including social media platforms and web browsers.

Within these sectors, the DMA sets forth a series of guidelines that gatekeepers must adhere to, ensuring that they do not misuse their market dominance to solidify their position and stifle the emergence of competitors.

According to the Commission, this decision concludes the investigation of Apple and Microsoft that opened in July 2023. This is because while the companies meet the DMA’s thresholds, the mentioned four core platform services do not.

The designation of a company as a gatekeeper hinges on three quantitative criteria.

First, the company must attain a specific annual turnover within the European Economic Area while offering a core platform service in at least three EU Member States. Secondly, it must provide such a service to over 45 million monthly active end users within the EU and cater to more than 10,000 yearly active business users established in the EU. The third criterion is that the company must have met the second criterion in the preceding three years.

While iMessage, Edge, Bing, and Microsoft Advertising do not meet the necessary thresholds, the decision does not impact Apple and Microsoft’s designation as gatekeepers for their other core platform services as of 5 September 2023.

These are Apple’s App Store, the browser Safari, and the operating system iOS. In January, Apple announced changes to these services to comply with the DMA, which attracted much criticism.

For Microsoft, the other services include the social network LinkedIn and Windows PC OS, its operating system.

Despite the Commission’s current decision, in November last year, Google and the largest EU telecommunications operators called on the Commission to designate Apple’s iMessage under the DMA.

According to the Commission, they will persist in monitoring market developments related to the four services should significant changes occur.

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