What Do Apple, Meta, TikTok Have In Common? Fighting Off Europe's Stiff Antitrust Rules

The Court of Justice of the European Union on Friday confirmed it has now received four legal complaints - two from Apple plus one each from Meta and TikTok - against Europe's decision to treat the tech players and their apps as gatekeepers under the Digital Markets Act.

As gatekeepers, these operators will be subject to stiff regulations engineered to ensure their software and services are interoperable with competitors, and that users can take away their data to use elsewhere and aren't locked into apps and sites; ensure the corporations do business in a fair, transparent, and reasonable manner with regards to complaints, terms and conditions, and fees; and that these companies are clear about their algorithms, rankings, content filtering, information handling, and more.

Breaking these rules could lead to offenders being told to cough up as much as 20 percent of their worldwide turnover in fines, and face other punishment, such as demands to break up their empires and sell off their divisions.

TikTok's formal objection was no surprise, given the ByteDance-owned app maker issued a very public statement on the matter, complaining it was under the size threshold set in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules to be considered a gatekeeper, and thus would be appealing the European Commission's definition of being a "gatekeeper service," ie: one that needs tighter regulation.

"Our appeal is based on the belief that our designation risks undermining the DMA's own stated goal by protecting actual gatekeepers from newer competitors like TikTok," it said. "Far from being a gatekeeper, our platform, which has been operating in Europe for just over five years, is arguably the most capable challenger to more entrenched platform businesses."

Meta, too, has also said it intends to contest the commission's classification of its Messenger and Marketplace platforms as gateway services. However, it did reportedly decide not to contest the gatekeeper status for Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp - that would have required a lawyer capable of keeping a straight face when doing so.

Apple has had multiple issues with the whole gatekeeper status issue, with very mixed results. Somewhat bizarrely the iPhone giant claimed its Safari browser wasn't a single product, but three for regulatory purposes. This was rejected by Europe, which promptly started investigations into iPadOS and iMessage.

There have been no further details released by the court, and Apple hasn't responded to a request for comment. All we know is the Mac titan has now filed two complaints against Europe over its gatekeeper status under the DMA.

The EU named product lines from six tech titans as gatekeepers, which will be subject to the aforementioned antitrust rules in the hopes of avoiding them stifling competition. Apple, Meta, and ByteDance have gone the legal route to overturn that classification and scrutiny. Microsoft, one of the six, is looking likely to do the same, and Alphabet and Amazon, the other two, seem to have knuckled under and made themselves (in their eyes) DMA-compliant. ®

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