Tech Giants Cry Fowl Over EU Competition Rules

John Lister's picture

Apple and Microsoft have disputed claims that some of their key services are so big they require additional regulation. The European Commission will now reassess whether they qualify as holding "gatekeeper" status.

The status matters because of the new Digital Markets Act, designed to boost competitions. A "gatekeeper" status means the service needs to follow tighter rules to make it easier for customers to switch to rivals. It's particularly aimed at cases where one business controls software and hardware in multiple areas, for example an operating system and a browser.

The assessment is for individual services rather than businesses. The criteria for "gatekeeper" status have proven controversial as they work on absolute figures rather than market share. The core principles are that the service has 45 million active users in European Union countries and that it's operated by a company with an annual turnover of more than 7.5 billion Euros ($8 billion USD) and a market valuation of more than 75 billion Euros ($80 billion USD).

Six Companies Affected

The European Commission has confirmed 22 services meet the gatekeeper status. They are operated by six companies: Alphabet (owners of Google), Amazon, Apple, Bytedance (owners of TikTok), Meta (owners of Facebook) and Microsoft.

However, it's put four classifications on hold pending further investigation. These are Microsoft's Bing (for search engines), Edge (for browsing) and the company's online advertising business, plus Apple's iMessaging tool. (Source:

There is some flexibility on the criteria. For example, iOS on Apple doesn't meet the thresholds but the European Commission is considering whether it should have gatekeeper status anyway. Meanwhile Gmail, Outlook and Samsung's Internet browser all meet the thresholds, but officials said their operators provided compelling arguments that they shouldn't be classed as gatekeepers.

Microsoft Says Google Could Benefit

The arguments in the four remaining cases are varied. Apple says it's a matter of counting and that iMessage doesn't actually meet the user base threshold despite officials saying it does.

Meanwhile Microsoft is arguing the law of unintended consequences: it says forcing it to make it easier to switch away from Bing could simply drive people towards Google Search and boost its already dominant market share. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Should there be any regulation to stop companies making it harder to switch tech services? If so, what's an appropriate threshold for which companies the rules cover? Is it better to go by the raw number of users or the market share?

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stooobeee's picture

No person or company should have such power of control that it regulates one's freedom to choose. We are seeing first hand, in real time, what happens when it does.

rozkay's picture

It's about time some country took action, every country in the EU as well as those in North America should do the same.