The European Union aims to begin enforcing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in spring 2023, Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager announced at the International Competition Network (ICN) conference last week, as first reported by TechCrunch. Vestager previously stated that the antitrust legislation, which introduces a new set of rules to curb the power of Big Tech, could be implemented as early as October of this year.
“The DMA will enter into force next spring and we are getting ready for enforcement as soon as the first notifications come in,” Vestager said during her speech at the ICN. As noted by TechCrunch, Vestager suggests that the Commission will be prepared to act against any violations made by “gatekeepers” — a classification that includes Meta, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — as soon as the laws come into force.
The DMA, which still needs final approval from the Council and Parliament, defines gatekeepers as companies that have a market capitalization of over €75 billion ($82 billion) and own a social platform or app that has at least 45 million monthly users. These entities can face fines of “up to 10 percent of its total worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year” if found in violation of the DMA’s rules, a fee that could increase to 20 percent in the case of a repeat offense.
In accordance with the DMA, gatekeepers will have three months to declare their status to the Commission, followed by an up to two-month wait period to receive confirmation from the EU. This wait period, coupled with the delayed DMA enforcement, could mean that we won’t start seeing any real battles between the EU and Big Tech until the end of 2023.
“This next chapter is exciting. It means a lot of concrete preparations,” Vestager explained. “It’s about setting up new structures within the Commission… It’s about hiring staff. It’s about preparing the IT systems. It’s about drafting further legal texts on procedures or notification forms. Our teams are currently busy with all these preparations and we’re aiming to come forward with the new structures very soon.”
Pushing back the DMA’s enforcement could give the Commission more time to prepare, but as TechCrunch points out, the delay could also serve as a catalyst for criticism if the Commission fails to address any major violations that occur between now and the time the DMA becomes law.
When passed, the DMA will likely disrupt the business models used by the world’s tech behemoths. For one, it could require Apple to start allowing users to download apps from outside the App Store, an idea that Apple CEO Tim Cook is adamantly against, as he argues that sideloading could “destroy” the security of an iPhone. It could also require WhatsApp and iMessage to become interoperable with smaller platforms, a policy that may make it harder for WhatsApp to maintain end-to-end encryption.