New EU law could force Apple to allow sideloading

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In short, the European Union is one step closer to passing a law that would apply sweeping new rules to the operators of the largest technology platforms. You would force platform owners like Apple to let users download apps from third party sources.

Last week, the European Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The agreement includes definitions for digital “gatekeepers,” who should follow new rules regarding advertising, messaging apps and digital storefronts.

The DMA defines a gatekeeper as a platform with an annual turnover of at least 7.5 billion euros (about $8.2 billion) over the past three years or a market value of 75 billion euros (about $82 billion). The company must also have at least 45 million monthly end users in the EU, 10,000 business users in the EU and control over at least one “core platform service” in three or more EU countries.

Any platform that falls under that definition should allow users to install software outside of the platform operator’s official app store, either through sideloading or through third-party storefronts. Google already allows sideloading on Android devices. Apple has fiercely defended iOS’ walled garden since it entered a lengthy legal battle with Epic Games, in which Epic has argued for allowing sideloading on iOS.

Platform holders like Google and Apple should also allow alternative payment methods under the DMA, which is already starting to happen due to legislation in countries like the Netherlands and South Korea. In addition, they should not use personal data for targeted advertising without the express consent of the users. Another stipulation says that the largest messaging apps like iMessage, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger should have some degree of interoperability with smaller messaging apps.

The DMA will become law if the EU Parliament and Council approve it after legal reviews, and the new rules will take effect six months later. Violations of the DMA can result in fines of 10 percent of a gatekeeper’s annual worldwide sales. Repeated violations can lead to a 20 percent fine or a temporary ban on acquiring other companies.

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