The European Union will consult with Bing and iMessages users and competitors on whether the new rules should also apply to these platforms. According to the new digital market law (Digital Markets Act), some of the companies and platforms that are popular and have a large number of users are “gatekeepers” and stricter rules should apply to them.
The European Commission sent a questionnaire to the competitors and users of the services of Apple and Microsoft with questions about how these services stand in comparison with the competitors. In addition to Bing, Microsoft also made the list with Edge and Microsoft Advertising. Platforms were not added to the first wave of the so-called core services. If they too are seen to have too much influence, they could be added soon.
The deadline for answering the questionnaires sent by the Commission is one week. Before making the final decision, there will probably be a period of new assessments. For now, it is unclear how much impact the answers to these questionnaires will have.
The European Union published the list of “gatekeeper” companies in September. The list included Alphabet for Google Maps, Google Play, Google Shopping, ads, Chrome, Android, YouTube and Google Search; Amazon is for Amazon Marketplace and ads; Apple with the App Store, Safari and iOS. ByteDance for TikTok; Meta for Facebook, Instagram, Meta Marketplace, Ads, Whatsapp, Messenger; Microsoft with LinkedIn and Windows PC OS.
Even before the Union published the list, there were speculations that Bing and iMessages would also be added to the list. At that time, however, the conclusion was that the two platforms do not tick all the boxes to be considered as “gatekeepers”. In the negotiations that followed, Apple explained to the Union representatives that although iMessages has a certain impact in the iOS operating system, it still plays a significantly small part. The company claims that iMessage does not have enough users to meet the basic “gatekeeper” requirement. They did not support this claim with numbers. The company has not published the number of iMessage users in quite a while. It’s almost unbelievable to even think that iPhone owners use third-party text communication software. According to Financial Times, iMessages could have as many as a billion users.
Second wave gatekeepers in February
For a company or service to be declared a “Gatekeeper” it needs to achieve an annual turnover in the European Economic Area (EEA) equal to or above €7.5 billion in in each of the last three financial years, or where its average market capitalisation or equivalent fair market value amounted to at least €75 billion in the last financial year. In addition, the service must have more than 45 million monthly active end users established or located in the EU.
There are different working conditions for these companies than the rest of the industry. The conditions that need to be fulfilled are different and depend on certain categories. Search engines must provide a selection from other searches. Operating systems must allow the uninstallation of applications that come with the operating system. Stores will not be able to have their own products stand out over the competition, and so on. The entire list of FAQs is available on the Commission’s website.
Regardless of the decision in September, Bing and iMessages could be added to the list as early as February. This is in line with the Union’s original plan. The services that will be added to the list in February will have until August 2024 to fulfill the conditions that are required from a potential “gatekeeper”. ChatGPT and Dall-E could be added to the list in February.
After this period, the penalties for violations are rigorous. The maximum penalty for a first offense is 10% of global revenues. In the event of a repeat violation, the penalty may rise to 20%. Systematic violations can be punished with alternative measures. For example, a request to sell parts of the company or a ban on operating in Europe.