Big tech companies face new legal obligations as Brussels lists linked services under new rules

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Apple’s App Store, Google Search, TikTok and WhatsApp are among nearly two dozen digital services that Brussels said on Wednesday must comply with new European regulations designed to tame big tech companies.

The first list of “gatekeepers” under the Digital Markets Act, which takes effect from Wednesday, includes six of the world’s biggest tech companies: US-based Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and US-based Meta, along with China’s ByteDance, which owns TikTok. .

Brussels announced on Wednesday after months of preparations that each would have to share data with rivals and make its services interoperable with competitors, among other obligations, or face fines that could run into billions of dollars. The new law aims to promote greater competition in the technology sector in Europe.

The 22 services designated as gatekeepers also include Apple’s iPhone operating system and the Safari web browser; Meta Instagram and Messenger; Google Play Store, Maps and YouTube; And the Amazon market and advertising companies. However, Samsung escaped being named a gatekeeper after arguing against its qualifications.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, is still weighing whether to include Apple’s iMessage and three Microsoft services — Bing search, Edge browser and Microsoft Advertising — after the companies backtracked, two people familiar with the matter said.

EU regulators will now launch an investigation to determine whether additional Apple and Microsoft services should be hijacked under the new legislation. Separately, the committee will take a year to decide whether Apple’s iPad operating system should also be part of the list, although no official request has been received from Apple.

By law, the so-called gatekeepers must have an annual turnover of more than €7.5 billion, a market capitalization of more than €75 billion and 45 million monthly active users in the EU, although EU regulators have discretion over Rating beyond these metrics. EU officials said that based on these criteria, Samsung had successfully confirmed that its web browser for smartphones, Samsung Internet, should not be subject to the new rules.

Microsoft said Bing should not be subject to the same obligations as its biggest competitor, Google Search. Apple has also argued that iMessage does not contain the numbers required to fall within the scope of the new rules.

Several people familiar with the EU’s thinking said the Commission was already preparing for legal challenges from some of the big tech companies.

The tech giants’ new obligations, including the need to inform the Commission if they intend to buy a competitor and set up a compliance function, will start from Wednesday.

However, they have six months to prove they comply with the rest of the rules, including a legal requirement that users obtain consent if companies want to combine data from different services, such as Instagram and Facebook, and a ban on their data being labeled. own products and services above competitors on their platforms or marketplaces.

And by March next year, these companies will also need to publish a compliance report to show how much they are complying with the law. Those who breach the new legislation can be fined up to 10 per cent of their global turnover, although they are able to appeal.

Details of the services covered by the new rules come as former competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager becomes an official candidate to head the European Investment Bank. Belgian commissioner Didier Reynders will handle her competition portfolio while she takes unpaid leave from the commission.

The new commitments by technology companies also come at a time of growing scrutiny of their actions in Europe. Vestager this year threatened to break up Google, and the European Union is set to block Booking’s takeover of Itravelly while regulators take a closer look at technology deals.

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