EU is skeptical that Apple’s App Store rules comply with DMA


EU investigating Apple's new sideloading rules for DMA non-compliance
The EC is not convinced that Apple has changed App Store rules enough to comply with the Digital Markets Act.
Photo: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels CC

The European Commission opened a noncompliance investigation Monday into whether Apple is fully following the rules that went into effect with the EU’s Digital Markets Act. If not, Apple faces potentially heavy fines.

The Mac-maker isn’t being singled out. The EC also opened similar investigations into Alphabet/Google and Meta/Facebook.

EU Digital Markets Act vs. US Big Tech

The purpose of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act is to open up Big Tech to more competition. But the U.S.-based companies being required to change their business practices seem to be dragging their feet. The European Commission is having none of it.

“We suspect that the suggested solutions put forward by the three companies do not fully comply with the DMA, ” said Margrethe Vestager, EVP in charge of competition policy, in a statement. “We will now investigate the companies’ compliance with the DMA, to ensure open and contestable digital markets in Europe.

EU investigating Apple sideloading rules for DMA noncompliance

One of the DMA provisions requires Apple to stop blocking rivals to the iPhone’s App Store and enable sideloading of third-party software.

A statement from the EC announcing its noncompliance investigations says:

“Apple’s new fee structure and other terms and conditions for alternative app stores and distribution of apps from the web (sideloading) may be defeating the purpose of its obligations under Article 6(4) of the DMA.”

Initially, Apple didn’t allow sideloading of iPhone applications — these had to come from an alternative software marketplace. This rule has since been dropped, and some of the more onerous requirements for rival marketplaces have been removed. Whether these changes will satisfy the EC remains to be seen.

Also, the EU Commission is investigating whether Apple is following the DMA requirement that it allow third-party software developers to “steer” consumers to offers outside the App Store, free of charge.

EU also looking into Apple’s browser choice rules

The EU’s Digital Markets Act also requires that iOS support alternative browser engines. But the EC said Monday:

“The Commission has opened proceedings against Apple regarding their measures to comply with obligations to (i) enable end users to easily uninstall any software applications on iOS, (ii) easily change default settings on iOS and (iii) prompt users with choice screens which must effectively and easily allow them to select an alternative default service, such as a browser or search engine on their iPhones.”

Alphabet and Meta are under investigation, too

In addition, the EC is looking into whether Alphabet is using its Google search engine to send users to its own services at the expense of rivals. And the Commission wants to be sure the Play Store also freely allows app developers to steer customers to their own websites.

Plus, Meta is being investigated on whether its new policy of asking users for permission before combining personal data gathered from its various services follows all the dictates of the DMA.

Just an investigation … for now

An investigation is not an indictment. At this point, the European Commission is only looking into whether Apple — and Alphabet and Meta — are violating the terms of the Digital Markets Act.

But if the result of the investigation is that Apple or one of the other Big Tech companies is in violation, there could be severe financial consequences.

Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market, warned:

“We are not convinced that the solutions by Alphabet, Apple and Meta respect their obligations for a fairer and more open digital space for European citizens and businesses. Should our investigation conclude that there is lack of full compliance with the DMA, gatekeepers could face heavy fines.”

To be clear, the changes Apple has been required to make apply only to residents of the European Union. Everyone else is still limited to Apple’s own App Store.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.