New European rules entered into force today. They could force Apple to allow users to access third-party app stores and allow sideloading of apps on iPhones and iPads (bypassing the App Store), among other sweeping changes intended to make the digital sector fairer and more competitive. And iMessage would not escape it.
A new DMA law
Under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the rules will apply to tech giants that meet its “gatekeeper” criteria and require them to open up their various services and platforms to other companies and developers.
It is almost certain that Apple will be ranked among the “guardians” due to its large annual revenue in the EU, the large number of active users and its “well-established and enduring position” in reason for the length of time it met those criteria.
Opening to other blinds
The DMA adopted this summer and which comes into force today could force Apple to make major changes to the way the App Store, iMessage, FaceTime and Siri work in Europe. For example, it could be forced to allow users to install third-party app stores and apps without going through the App Store (sideloading), give developers the ability to interact closely with Apple’s services and promote their offerings outside of the App Store, use third-party payment systems, and access data collected by Apple.
iMessage open soon?
One of the most recent additions to the DMA is the requirement to make messaging, voice call, and video call services interoperable. The interoperability rules theoretically mean that Meta apps such as WhatsApp or Messenger could request to interoperate with Apple’s iMessage, and the latter would be forced to comply within the EU.
What timeframe for law enforcement
The DMA was proposed by the European Commission in December 2020 and approved by the European Parliament and the Council in record time, in March 2022. It is now entering a six-month implementation phase and will begin to apply on May 2, 2023. Thereafter, within two months and no later than July 3, 2023, prospective gatekeepers will be required to notify the Commission of their basic platform services if they meet the thresholds established by the DMA.
Once the Commission has received the complete information, it will have 45 working days to assess whether the company in question meets the thresholds and to designate it as gatekeeper. After designation, gatekeepers will have six months to comply with DMA requirements, no later than March 6, 2024.
Here is what Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement accompanying a press release from the Commission:
DMA will profoundly change the digital landscape. With it, the EU takes a proactive approach to ensuring fair, transparent and contestable digital markets. A small number of large firms hold significant market power. Gatekeepers who enjoy a well-established position in digital markets will have to show that they compete fairly. We invite all potential gatekeepers, their competitors or consumer organizations to come and discuss with us the best way to implement DMA.
If Apple is truly designated as a “gatekeeper” (which there is little doubt), it will need to make major changes to its iOS and iPadOS platforms to meet the requirements. In March, before the law was passed, Apple said it was concerned that certain provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users.
Apple also faces similar legislation in the United States, with House of Representatives lawmakers introducing antitrust bills in June that, if passed, would bring about major changes to the tech industry.