Impending EU Regulation to Force Apple to Allow Third-Party App Stores and Open Up iMessage

Apple will be forced to allow users to utilize third-party app stores and payment systems, as well as make iMessage interoperable with other messaging services, by the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), according to a newly published document from the European Commission.

European Commisssion
In a questions and answers document on the Digital Markets Act titled "ensuring fair and open digital markets," published on Saturday, the European Commission explained and clarified what the Digital Markets Act will mean for companies that are designated as "gatekeepers." Apple is almost certain to be classified as a "gatekeeper," due to the size of its annual turnover in the EU, its ownership and operation of platforms with a large number of active users, and its "entrenched and durable position" due to how long it has met these criteria, and will therefore be subject to the rules set out in the DMA.

Last week, a leaked version of the DMA, seen by MacRumors, indicated that Apple could be forced to make major changes to the App Store, Messages, FaceTime, third-party browsers, and Siri in Europe. The latest document reiterates that gatekeepers will have to allow users to install third-party app stores, while developers will have to be able to interoperate with a gatekeeper's own services, promote their offers outside the gatekeeper's platform and use third-party payment systems, and access data gathered by a gatekeeper.

One of the new additions to the DMA is the requirement to make messaging, voice-calling, and video-calling services interoperable. The document clarifies that a third-party developer will have to request interoperability with a gatekeeper's service, and the gatekeeper will have to comply within a fixed timeframe. Immediately, gatekeepers will be required to support messaging between users on different platforms, but the DMA includes provisions to expand to group chats after two years, and video and audio calls after four years. The interoperability rules theoretically mean that Meta apps like WhatsApp or Messenger could request to interoperate with Apple's iMessage framework, and Apple will be forced to comply.

So far, Apple has heavily resisted attempts by governments to enforce changes to its operating systems and services. For example, Apple simply chose to pay a $5.5 million fine every week for ten weeks in the Netherlands instead of obey orders from the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) to allow third-party payment systems in Dutch dating apps.

The DMA says that gatekeepers who ignore the rules will face fines of up to 10 percent of the company's total worldwide annual turnover, or 20 percent in the event of repeated infringements, as well as periodic penalties of up to 5 percent of the company's total worldwide annual turnover. Where gatekeepers perpetrate "systematic infringements," the European Commission will be able to impose additional sanctions, such as obliging a gatekeeper to sell a business or parts of it, including units, assets, intellectual property rights, or brands, or banning a gatekeeper from acquiring any company that provides services in the digital sector.

EU lawmakers provisionally approved the DMA in March. Once the final document is officially published, the European Parliament and the Council will need to approve it before it can come into effect. Digital competition chief Margrethe Vestager said last month that she expects the DMA to come into force "sometime in October."

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Top Rated Comments

djcerla Avatar
29 months ago
Where to sign as a EU citizen to stop this abomination?
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unggoy Murderer Avatar
29 months ago
The EU can **** off. If Apple had been founded as a French or German conglomerate, this wouldn't exist.

If I wanted the ability to lobotomise my smartphone, I'd buy an Android phone.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Red Oak Avatar
29 months ago
iMessage is already "opened up". Its called SMS. Anyone can send a message to anyone

These bureaucrats are absolute morons and they are gonna f*** things up
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unggoy Murderer Avatar
29 months ago

Can you provide any evidence to back up this line of thinking?
The EU has always favoured its own, which is fine.

In this context, has the EU ever required the likes of Audi or BMW to make their car head units interoperable with each other? Or have standardised engine mounts so that you can switch comparable engines or gearboxes between platforms? All of this is technically possible through standardisation.

Alternatively, have they ever required Siemens to open up their traffic management platforms to third parties? Or required Bosch to allow end-user accessible APIs into CAN bus systems so I could extend or modify my car software?

Answers to all of above: no.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jclardy Avatar
29 months ago
And...this is what Apple gets for not listening to everyone asking them to open up a small bit to hold back the floodgates. The end result of this will be worse for both Apple, developers, and consumers. Every government entity will now have various restrictions to be followed requiring incredible amounts of work to support them all independently, versus just putting a "Don't enable this switch or your phone may get compromised" "developer" mode for installing third party apps.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NotTooLate Avatar
29 months ago
Its really interesting test case of governments fighting corporations on a global scale , the fact that a government can dictate which port an electrical device will have is really something crazy.

Can they decide that a game must support all platforms as well ? It would be nice to get GTA6 on MacOS when it comes out !!!

the EU is in trouble because non of the big tech is EU based , they are trying to make it easier for their own business to compete , which for now seems impossible as they are too far behind.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)