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Tech firms face new rules as EU countries, lawmakers clinch fair market deal

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Tech firms Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft may have to change their core business practices in Europe as EU countries and lawmakers bring forward landmark rules to curb their powers.

France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a tweet that there was a provisional agreement after eight hours of talks between negotiators for the Parliament and the Council (representing the governments of member states).

The European Commission has welcomed the agreement. “What we want is simple: fair markets also in digital. Large gatekeeper platforms have prevented businesses and consumers from the benefit of competitive digital markets,” said EU anti-trust chief Margrethe Vestager, who proposed the rules just over a year ago.

Meanwhile, EU industry chief Thierry Breton said in a separate tweet that the deal would ensure fair and open digital markets.

EU lawmaker Andreas Schwab, who had steered the debate in European Parliament, added: “This means that the time of long anti-trust cases, during which the authorities were lagging behind the big tech companies, is over.”

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) sets out rules for online gatekeepers: companies that control data and platform access. The act will cover gatekeepers in online intermediation services, social networks, search engines, operating systems, online advertising services, cloud computing, video-sharing services, web browsers, and virtual assistants.

Under the DMA, the tech firms will have to make their messaging services interoperable and provide business users access to their data. Business users will also be able to promote competing products and services on a platform and reach deals with customers off the platforms.

The rules outlined by the EU act will also prohibit the companies from favouring their own services over rivals’ or preventing users from removing pre-installed software or apps, applying to companies with a market capitalisation of €75bn, €7.5bn in annual turnover and at least 45 million monthly users.

Under the DMA, companies will face hefty fines up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover for breaching the rules, and as much as 20 per cent for repeat offences.

Apple, which has lobbied intensively against the DMA, reiterated its worries in a statement, saying: “We remain concerned that some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users, while others will prohibit us from charging for intellectual property in which we invest a great deal”.

Google, which also cranked up its lobbying in the last year, voiced similar concerns. “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. We’ll now take some time to study the last text, talk with the regulator and work out what we need to do to comply,” it said.

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