Big Tech faces new legal obligations as Brussels lists services subject to 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 curb big tech.

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

Each must share data with competitors and make their services interoperable with competitors, among other obligations, or face fines of up to billions of dollars, Brussels announced Wednesday after months of preparation. The new law is designed to foster greater competition in the technology sector in Europe.

The 22 services designated as gatekeepers include Apple’s iPhone operating system and Safari web browser; Meta’s Instagram and Messenger; Google’s App Store, Maps and YouTube; and Amazon’s marketplace and advertising businesses. However, Samsung escaped being classified as a gatekeeper after arguing against its merits.

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

EU regulators will now launch an investigation to determine whether additional Apple and Microsoft services should be captured by the new law. Separately, the commission will take a year to decide whether Apple’s iPad operating system should also be part of the list, although Apple has not yet received an official submission.

Under the law, so-called gatekeepers must have an annual turnover of more than €7.5 billion, a market value of more than €75 billion and 45 million active monthly users in the EU. EU officials said that based on these criteria, Samsung successfully argued that Samsung Internet, its web browser for smartphones, should not be subject to the new rules.

Microsoft has argued that Bing should not be subject to the same obligations as its larger rival, Google Search. Apple has also argued that iMessage does not have the necessary numbers to fall within the scope of the new rules.

The commission is already bracing for legal challenges by some big tech companies, people familiar with the EU’s thinking said.

New obligations for the tech giants, including the need to inform the commission if they want to buy a competitor and setting up a compliance function, will come into force from Wednesday.

However, if companies want to combine data from services as diverse as Instagram and Facebook, they have six months to show compliance with the rest of the rules, including a legal requirement to ask users for consent and a ban on their ranking. Own products and services than competitors on their platforms or markets.

By March next year, these companies will also have to publish a compliance report to show how they obey the law. Violators of the new law could be fined 10 percent of their global revenue, though they can appeal.

The details of the services covered by the new rules came as former competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager became the official candidate to head the European Investment Bank. Belgian Commissioner Didier Reynders will take up his rival portfolio while he takes unpaid leave from the Commission.

The new obligations for tech companies come at a time of increased scrutiny of their operations in Europe. Vestager threatened to break up Google this year, and the EU blocked its booking acquisition of Etraveli.

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