Apple and Microsoft have complained to Brussels that their services are not popular enough to qualify as “gatekeepers”, under a new EU law designed to limit the power of Big Tech.
The battle between Brussels and the two US companies regarding Apple’s iMessage messaging app and Microsoft Bing’s search engine is taking place ahead of Wednesday’s release of the first list services that will be regulated under the Digital Markets Act.
legislation places new obligations on tech companies. These include sharing data, linking with competitors, and making their apps interoperable.
Platforms that have an annual turnover greater than €7.5bn or a market capitalization above €75bn with 45mn active users per month in the EU will be subject to the new rules. However, Brussels retains some discretion beyond these metrics.
Microsoft rejected the idea of Bing being subject to the same requirements as its larger rival Google Search, according to two people who have direct knowledge.
These people claimed that Microsoft would not contest the designation of Windows, the dominant operating system in the PC industry as a gatekeeper. It has said that Bing only has a 3 percent market share and any further legal scrutiny could put it in a worse position.
Bing, if it is covered by the new regulations, would have to offer users other search engines including Google’s. Microsoft’s defense has been backed by advisers who claim that the move could boost Google’s share of the market.
Two people said that Apple argued separately that iMessage didn’t meet the threshold for users at which the rules apply and should therefore not comply with obligations such as opening the service up to rival apps like Meta’s WhatsApp.
Analysts estimate that iMessage is used by 1 billion people worldwide, but Apple hasn’t released any numbers for several years. Apple and the EU will likely determine how iMessage is marketed.
Apple, Microsoft and the European Commission declined to comment.
People familiar with the law said that several services of all large US tech firms, including Amazon Google Meta and Google, would be regulated by the DMA. TikTok, owned by the Chinese government, will also be included in this list.
The new rules are expected to cover Meta’s Instagram, Facebook, and Google’s Search Engine. They are intended to open up markets and allow competition from European startups.
Brussels continues to debate the inclusion of iMessages and Bing on the final list. The European Commission could open an investigation to determine whether these services are subject to the new DMA obligations.
The process of designating the services is part and parcel of the long-running implementation of these landmark rules that will be fully implemented next spring. The commission has already begun preparing for any legal challenges that may be brought against its decisions before the EU courts of Luxembourg.
Andreas Schwab (MEP, who led the negotiation of the DMA rules) said: “The DMA brings new competition to digital market in Europe. Now it’s up to the Commission to make it work.”
It is not the first instance that tech companies have publicly defied the European Commission (the EU executive) over digital rules. The commission has already been sued by US tech giant Amazon and German online retailer Zalando for claiming they were unfairly targeted.
The legal battles between tech companies and EU regulators are taking place at a time when their alleged anticompetitive behavior is being scrutinized more closely. This year, Brussels threatened to dissolve Google for its alleged illegal activities in the adtech sector.