The DMA imposes reinforced obligations on hyperscalers (large companies that pool server resources and then offer this as a service). The regulation defines as ‘Gatekeepers’ companies that can control other organisations’ access to their digital platform services. As of 2024, the companies that meet the specified criteria to be a Gatekeeper must prove compliance with the DMA for the services included in its scope. The DMA does not cover all digital markets, but specifically concerns triangular relationships in which user companies depend on platforms (owned by Gatekeepers) for accessing end users.
The Gang of 7
Seven Big Tech companies said in July that they meet the criteria of Gatekeeper. These included the ‘usual suspects’: Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft. Perhaps more surprisingly, Samsung and ByteDance also revealed themselves. All these companies have a market capitalisation of over 75 billion euro and a social platform or app that has at least 45 million active monthly users or 10,000 active business users.
The DMA also includes the notion of ‘emerging Gatekeepers’, for companies that are not yet in a sustainably competitive position, but likely will be soon. These companies are encouraged to proactively comply with the DMA, even though they aren’t yet officially covered by the legislation. For example, Booking.com expects to fall into the Gatekeeper category next year, once it recovers from the hit inflicted by Covid.
How will the DMA regulations on Gatekeepers impact you?
Generally speaking, the DMA aims to make certain that Gatekeepers comply with existing regulations (GDPR), to remove technical or commercial blockages, and to ensure that you (as the customer) control your data. More concretely, there will be:
- a prohibition on self-preference and tying practices
- an obligation of interoperability (notably between an operating system and applications)
- an obligation of reversibility, in particular technical reversibility for the end user
- an obligation to ensure the effective and free portability and reversibility of data to the end user or authorised third party.
For example, Gatekeepers won’t be able to prevent users from removing pre-installed software or apps, or favour their own services. Apple, for example, must allow a third-party app store on its phones.
A new era for competition policy
The DMA includes sizable fines for non-compliance, which increase with repeat offences. It thus brings competition policy into a new era, with much more ex-ante power and dialogue (even if the latter is not completely voluntary). Crucially, the effectiveness of the measures will depend on the clarity of the feedback from the user companies regarding unfair practices.
Report unfair practices to Beltug!
European Commissioner Thierry Breton estimated last year that up to 14 companies could be designated as Gatekeepers. So the Gang of 7 may certainly grow quickly. What will be the impact of this? And what about when one Gatekeeper ventures into the territory of another, like Meta vs X?
Stay tuned: a new stage of the DMA rocket launches in September, and we’ll learn more then. Again, much depends on what user companies see during contract negotiations – so get in touch with Beltug if you see any unfair practice!
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