Apple and Microsoft have secured exemptions for their iMessage and Bing search engine services from the upcoming European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). The decision comes after both tech giants successfully persuaded antitrust regulators that their services do not serve as gateways for businesses to reach end-users.
The DMA, slated to take effect in three weeks’ time, mandates major tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta Platforms, and ByteDance to facilitate the inclusion of third-party apps or app stores on their platforms. It aims to simplify the process for users to switch to alternative services, while prohibiting these companies from favoring their own offerings over competitors.
After a thorough five-month investigation, the European Commission concluded that iMessage, Bing, Edge, and Microsoft Advertising did not meet the criteria to be classified as gatekeeper services, Reuters news report said. Conversely, Apple’s App Store, iOS operating system, Safari browser, as well as Microsoft’s LinkedIn social network and Windows operating system, will retain their status as gatekeepers.
Apple defended iMessage by highlighting its relatively low usage compared to rival messaging services in the EU and argued that it’s not a crucial channel for businesses to reach users in the bloc. Similarly, Microsoft asserted that Bing, Edge, and Microsoft Advertising operate as challengers in the market with limited scale, thus not serving as significant gateways for business users.
Lazar Radic, an antitrust expert at the International Center for Law and Economics, praised the Commission’s decision, stating, “It is a good sign that the Commission has considered market realities, instead of just slapping the ‘gatekeeper’ label on iMessage because it fulfills certain quantitative thresholds.”
However, not everyone is in agreement with the exemptions. The Coalition for Open Digital Ecosystems (CODE), representing members such as Google, Meta Platforms, and Qualcomm, expressed dissent, arguing that exempting services like iMessage undermines the objectives of the DMA to enhance choice and competition in the digital ecosystem.