European lawmakers have agreed on new rules which they hope will curb the dominance of Big Tech companies.
Under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), giants such as Google and Apple will be forced to open up their services and platforms to other businesses.
Major technology firms have long faced criticism that they use their market dominance to squeeze out competition.
“What we want is simple: fair markets . . . in digital,” said EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.
“Large gatekeeper platforms have prevented businesses and consumers from the benefit of competitive digital markets,” she said.
The announcement is the biggest regulatory move yet from the EU to act against what it defines as “anti-trust” or anti-competitive behaviour from mainly US technology businesses.
“The agreement ushers in a new era of tech regulation worldwide,” said German MEP Andreas Schwab, who led the negotiations for the European Parliament.
The Apple Inc. logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue Manhattan, New York, US, October 2019. (Reuters)
Under the proposed Digital Markets Act, Apple would be forced to open up its App Store to third-party payment options instead of users being forced to use Apple’s own payment system.
It is something Apple has been fighting in the US during a high-profile court battle with Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite.
Google will be asked to offer people who use smartphones which run on the company’s Android operating system alternatives to its search engine, the Google Maps app or its Chrome browser.
Apple would also be forced to loosen its grip on the iPhone, with users allowed to uninstall its Safari web browser and other company-imposed apps that users cannot currently delete.
The targets of the law include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, the App Store, Google Play and many other services belonging to large tech firms.
The EU wants to give users more choice over how people send messages. The new rules would require that technology make their messaging services interoperable with smaller competitors.
However, Apple said it was “concerned that some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users”.
Meanwhile, Google said: “While we support many of the DMA’s ambitions around consumer choice and interoperability, we’re worried that some of these rules could reduce innovation and the choice available to Europeans.”