Apple and Microsoft are in a dispute with Brussels regarding the classification of iMessage and Bing as ‘gatekeepers’

Apple and Microsoft are in a dispute with Brussels regarding the classification of iMessage and Bing as 'gatekeepers'

Apple and Microsoft are contesting Brussels’ categorization of certain of their services as not meeting the popularity criteria to be considered “gatekeepers” under new significant EU legislation aimed at restraining the influence of major tech companies.

Brussels’ clash with these two US corporations revolves around Apple’s iMessage chat application and Microsoft’s Bing search engine, just prior to the release of the inaugural list of services to be subject to the Digital Markets Act, which introduces fresh responsibilities for tech firms, including data sharing, linking to competitors, and ensuring compatibility with rival apps.

The legislation will apply to platforms with an annual turnover exceeding €7.5 billion, a market capitalization surpassing €75 billion, and active monthly users totaling 45 million in the EU, though Brussels retains some discretion in designating such entities. Microsoft has argued against imposing the same obligations on Bing as on its significantly larger rival, Google Search, maintaining that Bing holds only a 3% market share and would face a greater disadvantage under additional legal scrutiny. If subject to the new regulations, Bing would need to offer users a choice of alternative search engines, including Google’s, potentially boosting Google’s market share, according to advisers.

Separately, Apple contends that iMessage doesn’t meet the user number threshold to warrant the application of these rules, thus should not be compelled to adhere to obligations like opening up the service to rival apps such as Meta’s WhatsApp.

The European Commission, Apple, and Microsoft have declined to comment. It’s expected that numerous major US tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and Meta, will see several of their services regulated under the Digital Markets Act, and even Chinese-owned TikTok will be included.

While Meta’s Instagram and Facebook, as well as Google’s search engine, are anticipated to be encompassed by these new rules, Brussels is still deliberating whether to include iMessage and Bing in the final list. The commission may initiate an investigation to ascertain whether these services should be subject to the fresh obligations outlined in the Digital Markets Act.

This classification of services is part of the ongoing process of implementing these landmark regulations, set to become fully effective next spring. The commission is already preparing for potential legal challenges in the EU courts in Luxembourg over its decisions.

Andreas Schwab, the MEP who led the negotiations for the rules, expressed that “The DMA will bring new competition to digital markets in Europe and now it is up to the commission to make it work.”

This isn’t the first instance of tech firms openly challenging the commission, as German online retailer Zalando and US tech giant Amazon have previously taken legal action against the commission, alleging unfair targeting under the Digital Services Act, another piece of digital legislation designed to establish new internet policing standards.

These legal disputes between tech behemoths and EU regulators come at a time when there is heightened scrutiny over their alleged anti-competitive conduct, with Brussels even considering the breakup of Google due to purportedly unlawful practices in the adtech sector.