How Will the New EU Regulation Affect Gatekeepers?

Over the past few months, the European Union has made significant strides in digital regulations. They've introduced some game-changing acts like the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA), while also proposing other measures like the Data Act, the Artificial Intelligence Act, and the Media Freedom Act.
These regulations are set to have a major impact on the digital business landscape not only in Europe but also globally.

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eu regulation gatekeepers

Illustration: Lenka Tomašević

Particularly, they will greatly influence leading U.S. digital service providers identified by the European Union as “gatekeepers”. These providers, along with their extensive customer base of millions across Europe and the Atlantic, will need to navigate and comply with the new regulatory requirements. 

What are the interoperability requirements for digital gatekeepers?   

At the “Internet Dialogue” conference held today in Belgrade, Professor at the University of Ljubljana, Dr Matija Damjan, shared his opinion on the topic of the interoperability requirements for digital gatekeepers which have been introduced by the new EU legislation. 

“The purpose of this Digital Markets Act is to basically prevent the abuse of market power by the big tech in the European digital single market, whereas the Digital Services Act applies to all online services,” he clarified in the beginning. 

In this sense, digital gatekeepers are tech giants that meet certain economic tests measured by their annual turnover or market evaluation. 

“Big tech has a significant impact on the internal market. More precisely, an annual turnover of a minimum of 7.5 billion euros in the EU in the previous three financial years, or a market valuation of at least 75 billion euros. Moreover, it’s a company that provides the same core platform service (CPS) in at least three member states. It’s a company that provides a CPS which is an important gateway for business users to reach end users, has at least 45 million monthly active end-users and at least 10,000 business users in the EU. It’s a company that enjoys an entrenched and durable position in its operations at least three years in a row,” the professor explained. 

Prohibition of unfair business practices, better data protection and increased privacy   

According to the new regulation, the prohibition of unfair business practices will look something like this: 

  • Self-preferencing: ranking their own products or services higher than competitors’; 
  • Using non-public data generated by business users to compete against them; 
  • Forcing business users and end users to exclusively use the gatekeeper’s services rather than third-party services; 
  • Requiring users to use non-essential gatekeeper services or preventing them from uninstalling or unsubscribing from such services. 

The second set of rules concerns better data protection, meaning that gatekeepers may not: 

  1. Collect, store or process end-user’s personal data collected through third-party services without the users’ consent; 
  2. Track end-users outside the gatekeepers’ CPS to target advertising without the users’ consent; 
  3. Process users’ personal data for targeted advertising without the users’ consent. 

The third group of regulation includes increased transparency, meaning that: 

  1. Search engines must explain their pricing and fee systems to advertisers and publishers; 
  2. Search engines must give advertisers and publishers access to their marketing and advertising performance data; 
  3. Software application stores must publish general conditions of access to the store by third parties. 

The ultimate goal is an increased user choice   

As Dr. Matija Damjan pointed out, increased user choice is the aim that should be achieved through new interoperability rules. 

“The basic requirement is that operating systems and key hardware and software features must be interoperable with third-party software and hardware. Messaging services should also become interoperable,” he stated. 

dr matija damjan

At this point, it’s also important to clarify what interoperability stands for in this context. 

“It’s the ability to exchange information and mutually use the information which has been exchanged through interfaces or other solutions, so that all elements of hardware and software work with other hardware and software and with users in all the ways in which they are intended to function. It’s implemented through shared protocols, APIs or other technical solutions like data pools,” Professor Damjan said. 

Regarding horizontal interoperability, he underlined that it was something that wasn’t contained in the original proposal of the Digital Markets Act by the European Commission but was introduced later in the legislative procedure by the European Parliament. 

“It means that the basic functionalities of a gatekeeper number-independent interpersonal communications services must be interoperable with such services of another provider. In other words, it means that users should be able to text Apple’s iMessage or Meta’s WhatsApp from other messenger services, like Signal or Telegram,” he concluded. 

From the aforementioned, it is obvious that the digital landscape will change inevitably, and for the better, at least from the point of view of end users. However, this means serious adjustments in both hardware and software production, data collection, and more, for the big tech. 

In other words, we are finally entering an era where big tech power will be disrupted and the game will become fairer for the competition, regardless of size or country. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.