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EU law may force Meta, Apple to open their chat apps to smaller rivals

If passed, Meta and Apple will have six months to open their messaging platforms to interoperability

The proposed EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) is set to require larger messaging platforms, including Meta’s WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as well as Apple’s iMessage, to interoperate with their smaller rivals.

This will allow users of different apps to exchange messages, send files, or make video calls, allowing for more open communication and a greater freedom of choice.

If passed, Meta and Apple will have six months to open their messaging platforms to interoperability or they will be liable for a fine of 10% of their total worldwide turnover, with 20% in case of repeated infringements.

MEP and Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee rapporteur Andreas Schwab said that the legislation will provide app developers with “completely new opportunities”, while “small businesses will get more access to business-relevant data and the online advertising market will become fairer”.

In a statement to IT Pro, an Apple spokesperson said: “We remain concerned that some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users while others will prohibit us from charging for intellectual property in which we invest a great deal."

"We believe deeply in competition and in creating thriving competitive markets around the world, and we will continue to work with stakeholders throughout Europe in the hopes of mitigating these vulnerabilities," they added.

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Rachel Bell, associate at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, told IT Pro that the “improved access, choice, and information coming out of the DMA is unparalleled for businesses and consumers alike”.

“Smaller tech companies will benefit from user-choice over preloaded apps and the ability to opt for alternative services to interact with their contacts. For consumers, the increased access and choice will also deliver more transparency around the privacy practices of Big Tech,” she said.

This is important as a current “perceived lack of choice” in the messaging platforms market has created an environment where “data sharing practices are widely questioned but generally accepted”, she added.

“The DMA is a clear break away from the “closed model” status quo favoured by Big Tech, representing the biggest overhaul of the laws governing tech companies in over two decades. The measures are set to pave the way for a more equitable and transparent industry, ushering in a new era for small businesses, innovators and disruptors,” said Bell.

The European Parliament stated that the proposed legislation is currently being “finalised at technical level and checked by lawyer-linguists”, and will need to be passed by both the European Parliament and Council.

In a press conference on Friday morning, Margarete Vestager said she expects the DMA to come into force “sometime in October”.

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