According to the Financial Times, Google and some of Europe’s biggest telecoms companies have asked EU regulators to designate iMessage as an “essential” service.
Doing so, under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), would require Apple to make its communications platform compatible with competing chat services.
Google, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Orange said in a letter to the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, that Apple’s service meets the quality criteria of the act (over 45m active users) and therefore, should be subject to the rules for “the benefit of European consumers and businesses”.
They argued that iMessage is “fundamental” as an “important gateway between enterprise users and their customers” and that this is reason enough to designate Apple as the gatekeeper for the iMessage service. They also said the definition would benefit consumers because “rich messages” are only accessible to Apple users, according to the report.
Apple did not comment on the report, but referred to an earlier statement that said:
“iMessage is a great service that Apple users love because it provides an easy way to communicate with friends and family while offering top-notch privacy and security protections.
Consumers today have access to a wide variety of messaging apps and often use several at the same time, reflecting how easy it is to switch between them. iMessage is designed and marketed for personal consumer communications, and we look forward to explaining to the committee why iMessage does not fall within the scope of the DMA.”
Apple challenged the EU regulator’s designation as a “gatekeeper” ahead of the publication of the first list of services to be regulated by the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The legislation introduces new rules that apply to services that are considered core platform services and forces them to open up their various services and platforms to other companies and developers. For example, Apple could be forced to allow third-party companies and competing apps, such as Meta’s WhatsApp, to integrate directly into iMessage.
However, Apple argued that iMessage does not have the number of users required for the DMA rules to apply and should not be subject to them. “iMessage is not a significant gateway into the union for enterprise users to reach end users due to its small scale relative to other messaging services,” Apple reportedly told the committee. This does not apply to three other Apple products since the original EU list considers Safar, iOS and the App Store as gatekeepers.
Analysts estimate that iMessage has about 1 billion users worldwide, but Apple has not disclosed official numbers about the service in several years. Whether iMessage will be included in the initial EU list of gatekeeper services will depend on how it defines the market in which it operates.
The EU investigation into iMessage is ongoing and the European Commission has until February to make a decision.