Apple Set To Avoid EU Crackdown Over iMessage Service

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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.

In order to fall under the scope of the rules, a service must be deemed an “important gateway” for business users. EU enforcers now consider this is not the case for iMessage, according to the people.

If iMessage ended up being targeted by the Digital Markets Act, Apple 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 already strongly contested.

Under the DMA, it will be illegal for the most powerful firms to favor 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 rival platforms.

In September, the bloc unveiled a list of 22 key services to face the rules, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google Search, Amazon.com Inc.’s marketplace, and Meta’s Facebook.

For Apple, its App Store, Safari browser, and iOS mobile operating system were also earmarked as “core platform services,” meaning they are covered by the law.

But on top of its initial list, the EU started investigations to determine whether Apple’s iMessage should also be hit by the rules, as well as Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, Edge and Advertising services.

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

Meanwhile, Apple, Meta and TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. have all asked the EU courts to double check 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.

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