As previously reported, the European Commission held its second and third DMA workshops this week and last. They dealt with the interoperability of messaging services and app stores respectively.

For those unable to attend, here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Interoperability of messaging services

  • Commission wears the moderator hat. As with the previous workshop, the EC kept quiet and held its cards close to its chest.
  • Interoperability is not a new item. Panellists highlighted that interoperability already exists today, pointing to the example of businesses which use more than one communications platform (e.g. Teams and WebEx) which can interoperate with one-another using gateway technology such as Mio.
  • The right recipe for technical interoperability. We heard a lot from stakeholder participants about the various ways in which a gatekeeper could practically implement interoperability considering factors such as security and privacy, timing and cost. Options include developing bespoke solutions based on a gatekeeper’s existing application interfaces, as well as interoperability via new, open protocols developed through common industry standards.
  • Gatekeepers vocalise security concerns. WhatsApp (Meta) which provides its users with end-to-end encrypted messaging services, highlighted that the DMA’s Article 7 interoperability obligation requires gatekeepers to preserve the current levels of security being provided to users. WhatsApp flagged that these security standards could be compromised when gatekeepers’ messaging services have to interoperate with those of third parties (given that WhatsApp would lose oversight and control over the handling of data), and that this could undermine users’ confidence in its services.
  • Focus on the role of the reference offer. BEREC is currently considering the minimum criteria which should be defined in the gatekeepers’ reference offer (a document defining the terms, conditions and technical details of interoperability with the gatekeeper’s service) drawing from similar experience in the telecoms sector.

App stores

  • More transparency in the decision to block apps. Panellists and members of the audience highlighted the fact that gatekeepers’ app stores currently had free reign over which app to prevent from accessing the store and do not provide explanations when issuing a rejection. They insisted on the importance of having a transparent process with the app store providing an explanation for its rejection of an app. This would allow developers to design their app with more certainty they will be accepted by the app store and ultimately lower barriers to entry on the app markets.
  • Fee structure should be reassessed. Stakeholders mentioned that the current fee structures and payment systems requirements to interact with app stores should be reviewed and reassessed based on fair and non-discriminatory principles and become transparent.
  • Gatekeepers vocalise security concerns. Apple stressed its need to uphold its high standard of data and device security and to maintain data privacy in accordance with GDPR rules. It further insisted that the integrity of the iPhone should not be compromised in the DMA compliance process. Apple is ready to allow alternative app stores only if it does not hamper security or privacy.
  • All stakeholders stressed the need for a continuous dialogue. According to them, DMA compliance should be discussed at all levels (gatekeepers, authorities, app developers, consumers,...) and by different professions like engineers or behavioural psychologists. Through this multi-level and continuous dialogue, the impacts of the changes implemented by the DMA will be welcomed in the app store ecosystem.

Detailed accounts of the workshops are available in our DMA Hub, your one-stop-shop for all things DMA.