The EU has given Apple a reprieve for the moment. By not immediately designating the iOS iMessage messaging platform as a “gatekeeper,” Apple does not have to be forced to add support for the competing Rich Communication Service (RCS) messaging system to iOS. Used by Google’s Android messaging app, RCS offers many of the same features as iMessage such as expanded messaging capacity, high-quality imaging and video, end-to-end encryption, read receipts, and typing indicators, but only when chats are limited to other RCS users.
The EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) would have forced Apple to support RCS in the union’s 27 member countries had iMessage been considered a “gatekeeper.” To be considered as such, iMessage would have had to have at least 45 million monthly active users. While six companies are considered gatekeepers (Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and ByteDance), the EU took a look at individual services, such as iMessage, to see which ones qualify as a “gatekeeper.”
Apple’s iMessage, at least for now, is not considered a gatekeeper by the EU
As we said, Apple’s reprieve might be temporary since iMessage is one of four core services that the EU is still thinking about designating as a “gatekeeper.” The other three still under consideration are all Microsoft businesses: Bing search, the Edge browser, and the company’s advertising business. The EU will make its final call on those services in five months.
Timeline for companies to comply with the EU’s DMA
If the EU eventually designates iMessage as a “gatekeeper” in five months, Apple will have until August 2024 to implement the necessary changes although in theory any change would be limited to iPhone units being used in the 27 EU member countries. The company says that the messaging service is not a “gatekeeper” and does not meet the requirement that it has 45 million monthly active users.
Google has been trying to pressure Apple to add support for RCS which would have eliminated the green bubble bullying that takes place in schools when someone is outed as an Android user during a group chat since their presence in the chat breaks all of the iMessage features. As we pointed out, the same thing happens when an iOS user joins a chat that previously consisted of only Android users with the Messages by Google app or other RCS-based messaging platforms.
Companies that do not comply with the DMA can be fined up to 10% of their annual revenue. Repeat offenders can be fined up to 20% of annual revenue. Based on Apple’s fiscal 2022 revenue, it could face a fine of as much as $36 billion if it fails to meet DMA requirements.