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The European Commission is opening its first investigations to check for compliance with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Alphabet (parent company of Google), Apple and Meta will be the first to be scrutinized.

Executive EC Vice President Margarethe Vestager and European Commissioner Thierry Breton announced the investigations. The duo first discussed Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, which are allegedly guilty of “steering” their users away from alternative options to their offerings. Both parties are said to prevent users from seeing alternative app stores and downloading third-party apps.

Investigating app stores

The DMA requires six major tech companies, so-called “gatekeepers,” to allow other parties to interact with users of their platforms. A degree of interoperability is mandated so that there can be competition between, say, the App Store/Play Store and alternative services. The EC notes that Apple prevents other apps from using Photos in the same way as the pre-installed Photos app. Such practices are worthy of investigation, according to the Commission. It is but one example of the behaviour that the two mobile OS giants display to secure their de facto monopolies.

Tip: How do you prepare for the DSA or DMA, if it applies to you?

Although Apple has made several adjustments to comply with the DMA, it has satisfied only a few outside parties. For example, it allows sideloading, but refuses to provide the same security guarantees that apply to apps available on the App Store.

Using the DMA’s guidelines, the EC is looking at other areas in which Google is failing outside its Android-bound Play Store. The company allegedly favours its own services in search results, such as Google Flights and Google Shopping.

Meta under the microscope

The EC suspects Meta of another DMA violation. The company is said to unlawfully combine user data through its platforms. Through a new revenue model, users of Instagram and Facebook must pay to not see personalized ads. This “pay-or-consent” model, as Breton puts it, may be in violation of the DSA. The new DMA investigation looks at whether the two platforms are not illegally combining user data.

The EC hopes the investigations will force the targeted companies to speed up their compliance. In any case, the fact that the investigations are taking place very soon after the DMA’s entrance shows that the Commission wants to show that there’s proper heft behind the legal wording. The maximum fines can be 10 percent of a company’s yearly revenue, but repeat offenses can turn this into 20 percent.

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