The EU Council has been in the news in the recent past for all the good reasons, including passing the regulation that phones and other small electronic devices including laptops from different manufacturers will soon be forced to use a common charging standard, the USB-C to curb on electronic waste resulting from people owning numerous charging systems while one could do the job.
The Council, clearly watching out for the interests of the ordinary people in the European Union, which has a trickle-down effect on other regions as well, has approved a new set of laws aimed at levelling the competition in the social media space as well as safeguarding peoples’ privacy online.
The new laws in part target “gatekeepers” who are identified as large online platforms that have significant influence the world over, think WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram etc
The new set of laws intends to make these gatekeepers operate within a tight set of rules that will prevent them from abusing their position. The aim according to the EU Council’s statement is to create a fair and competitive digital environment, allowing companies and consumers to benefit from digital opportunities.
“With the final adoption of the Digital Markets Act, we will finally make large online platforms responsible for their actions. Hereby, the EU will change the online space worldwide. The gatekeepers that the DMA addresses are omnipresent – we all use their services on a daily basis. However, their power is growing to an extent that negatively affects competition. Thanks to the DMA, we will ensure fair competition online, more convenience for consumers and new opportunities for small businesses.” Ivan Bartoš, Deputy Prime Minister for Digitisation and Minister of Regional Development
New rules for gatekeepers
Once a platform is identified as a gatekeeper, it will now have to abide by the following;
- ensure that unsubscribing from core platform services is just as easy as subscribing
- ensure that the basic functionalities of instant messaging services are interoperable, i.e. enable users to exchange messages, send voice messages or files across messaging apps
- give business users access to their marketing or advertising performance data on the platform
- inform the European Commission of their acquisitions and mergers
The gatekeepers will also be prevented from doing the following;
- rank their own products or services higher than those of others (self-preferencing)
- pre-install certain apps or software, or prevent users from easily un-installing these apps or software
- require the most important software (e.g. web browsers) to be installed by default when installing an operating system
- prevent developers from using third-party payment platforms for app sales
- reuse private data collected during a service for the purposes of another service
Once identified as a gatekeeper, the platform will have to comply with the new set of laws within 6 months. Failure to which, the platform risks a fine of up to 10% of its total worldwide turnover. For a repeat offence, a fine of up to 20% of its worldwide turnover may be imposed.
The EU is expected to start enforcing the rules effectively in September 2022, meaning by the end of 2023, cross-messaging across different platforms including Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram and other popular messaging platforms will soon be a thing.