After arguing that iMessage wasn’t big enough to count as a gatekeeper service in the EU, Apple managed to get the messaging app removed from compliance with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in September. The EU is moving the goalposts and determining whether those rules should apply.
The European Commission in September opened investigations to assess whether Microsoft’s Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising, as well as Apple’s iMessage, should be subject to the DMA. The regulator’s probes stem from the companies contesting its identification of those services as “core platform services” that should be subject to stricter regulations under the DMA. Under the DMA, which was introduced in June 2018, services such as those provided by Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, Meta Platforms, and ByteDance are required to permit third-party apps or app stores on their platforms and to let users quickly jump from default apps to rivals, among other things.
If these companies are found to have abused their dominance, the DMA allows them a six-month window to make changes to bring them into line with antitrust laws. That’s far from a definitive decision, but it demonstrates that the European Commission is not taking these cases lightly. The EU seeks input from users and rivals to decide whether or not these tech giants should comply with the new rules.
To determine whether these services should be subject to the DMA, the European Commission sent questionnaires to users and rivals earlier this month, asking them to rate the importance of Microsoft’s three services and iMessage compared to competing services. The EU watchdog also asked how those services fit into the companies’ ecosystems and for details about their user numbers.
In a separate questionnaire, the European Commission also asks users about their experiences using Bing and iMessage to see how they compare to other alternatives, according to people familiar with the matter. The EU wants to understand if the services are used for shopping, streaming, gaming, or other activities and why they are attractive or not to consumers.
The questions are a precursor to a formal market investigation that will be triggered based on the rebuttable presumption mechanism set out in Article 17(3) of the DMA. The Commission is expected to complete its investigation within 12 months.
iMessage is a free-to-use instant messenger application developed and maintained by Apple Inc. It is available on all iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. The app is designed to allow the exchange of text, photos, videos, and documents. The app has been criticized for being prone to security issues, such as pixelated video messages and insecure texts when communicating with Android smartphones.
The app has been intensely scrutinized by privacy advocates, who are concerned about Apple’s control over its users’ data. They have argued that the app could potentially be used to spy on them or to sell personal information for marketing purposes.