EU expands regulatory reach: Apple’s iPadOS now subject to DMA

The European Union has announced that it will apply its Digital Markets Act (DMA) to Apple’s iPadOS, expanding the regulatory scope to cover four of the tech giant’s platforms. The decision amplifies regulatory risk for Apple, as it brings its tablet ecosystem under the same market fairness and contestability rules as other digital platforms.

Apple now has a six-month deadline to ensure that iPadOS complies with the DMA. The development could lead to significant changes in how Apple operates its tablet platform in the EU, as it will be required to adhere to a range of DMA mandates. These include prohibiting “gatekeepers” from self-preferencing their own services, allowing third-party app stores, supporting app sideloading, and offering third-party payment options.

Additionally, Apple must open up access to non-WebKit versions of Safari on iPadOS within the same timeframe. This follows a similar requirement already implemented on iOS as part of DMA compliance efforts. Furthermore, business users reaching customers via the tablet platform will have a legal right to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms.

Last year, the Commission designated Apple’s mobile platform iOS, App Store, and Safari browser as subject to the DMA’s rules, which carry significant penalties for violations. Since then, Apple has announced several changes to its operations in the region, but some aspects of its response are already under formal investigation for suspected non-compliance.

The European Commission’s decision to include iPadOS in the DMA regulations was based on qualitative criteria, considering the entrenched and durable position of tech giants in the market. The Commission found that business users of iPadOS far exceeded the threshold, while end user numbers were close to it and expected to rise in the future.

According to the Commission’s market investigation, both end users and business users are “locked-in” to using iPadOS. Apple’s vast ecosystem disincentivizes end users from switching to other operating systems for tablets, while business users are tied to iPadOS due to its large and commercially attractive user base, particularly in gaming apps.

In response to the designation, Apple emphasized its commitment to comply with the DMA and deliver the best products and services to European customers while addressing privacy and data security risks posed by the regulation.

The Commission conducted the market investigation of iPadOS over the course of approximately eight months, confirming it as the first and only investigation undertaken since the DMA came into effect. In a separate decision earlier this year, the EU decided against designating Apple’s iMessage as subject to the DMA, thereby avoiding an obligation to make the messaging system interoperable.

The expansion of the DMA to include iPadOS reflects the EU’s efforts to ensure fair competition and consumer protection in the digital market, signaling a heightened regulatory environment for tech giants operating in Europe.

Written by Sophie Blake


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