Digital competition law: EU Commission unveils ‘gatekeepers’ list

The European Commission has published its list of online services designated as “gatekeepers”, which now have six months to adapt to strict antitrust practices under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Failing to do so could mean facing up to 20% global annual turnover fines. The list comprises six companies – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft. The DMA entered into force in November 2022 and aims to boost European startups and improve end-user services by bolstering competition in digital markets. From March 2024, the DMA will give the European Commission new regulatory competences that could significantly impact the business models of such services. Companies with a certain market value and longevity are designated “gatekeepers” if they own core platform services (CPS) that act as a gateway to, and have significant control of, digital market access between corporate sellers and end-consumers. The CPS definition includes search engines, social media, intermediation services and exploitation systems and it was previously unclear where the line would sit between services owned by the same parent company. Meta has been designated as a gatekeeper for five of its services, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Meta Marketplace and Apple for three of its services – the App Store, Safari and Apple iOS. Samsung was also expected to be on the list of gatekeepers but the Commission decided that the Samsung Internet Browser did not qualify as a gateway. It is expected that implementation of the DMA will be challenging and challenged on a number of fronts. For example, while a company might not contest its own status as a gatekeeper, it might contest the gateway designation of one of its services.

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