Apple set to avoid EU crackdown over iMessage service


If designated under the Digital Markets Act, the company would have faced potentially onerous obligations to make iMessage work with rival online messaging services, such as Meta Platforms Inc’s WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – a move that Apple has strongly contested. — Photo by Luis Cortés on Unsplash

Apple Inc’s iMessage service looks set to win a carve out from new European Union antitrust rules to rein in Big Tech platforms after watchdogs tentatively concluded that it isn’t popular enough with business users to warrant being hit by the regulation.

European Commission officials are leaning toward the reprieve for Apple as part of a five-month market investigation which concludes in February, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

If designated under the Digital Markets Act, the company would have faced potentially onerous obligations to make iMessage work with rival online messaging services, such as Meta Platforms Inc’s WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – a move that Apple has strongly contested.

The Brussels-based commission declined to comment. An Apple spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions from Bloomberg on the EU plans.

Under the DMA, it will be illegal for the most powerful firms to favour their own services over those of rivals. They’ll be barred from combining personal data across their different services, prohibited from using data they collect from third-party merchants to compete against them, and will have to allow users to download apps from rivals platforms. In September, the bloc unveiled a list of 22 services to face the rules, including Alphabet Inc’s Google Search, Apple’s Safari, Amazon.com Inc’s marketplace and Meta’s Facebook.

Alongside this, the bloc’s antitrust watchdogs started investigations to determine whether Apple’s iMessage should be hit by the rules, as well as Microsoft Corp’s Bing, Edge and Advertising services.

Meanwhile, Apple, Meta and TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd have all asked the EU courts to determine whether some of their services should come under the scope of the DMA – seen as hitting the heart of some of their most profitable business models.

The DMA’s raft of dos and don’ts come into full effect in early March. – Bloomberg

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