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 Law, which comes into force as of Wednesday, includes six of the world’s largest technology companies: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and US-based Meta, along with Chinese company ByteDance, which owns TikTok. .

Brussels announced on Wednesday after months of preparations that each will have to share data with rivals and make its services interoperable with rivals, among other obligations, or face fines that could reach 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 considering whether to include Apple’s iMessage and three Microsoft services — Bing Search, the Edge browser and Microsoft Advertising — after the companies backed down, two people familiar with the matter said.

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

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By law, 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 whether Rating beyond these metrics. EU officials said that based on these criteria, Samsung has successfully argued that its web browser for smartphones, Samsung Internet, should not be subject to the new rules.

Microsoft said that Bing should not be subject to the same obligations as its larger competitor, Google Search. Apple also argued that iMessage does not have 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 to take on legal challenges from some big tech companies.

New obligations for the tech giants, including the need to inform the Commission if they intend to buy a competitor and create a compliance function, will kick in from Wednesday.

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

By March next year, these companies will also need to publish a compliance report to show how well they are complying with the law. Those who violate the new legislation could be fined up to 10 percent of their global turnover, although they are able to appeal.

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Details of the services covered by the new rules came as former Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager became an official candidate to head the European Investment Bank. Belgian Commissioner Didier Reynders will take over her competition portfolio while taking unpaid leave from the Commission.

The new commitments to technology companies also come at a time of increasing 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 Itravly while regulators take a closer look at technology deals.

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