Can Europe’s Digital Markets Act deliver competition without complexity?

Brussels must maintain sight of the fact that true market fairness means empowering consumers with genuine choice and convenience, not just dismantling monopolies.

Heralded by Brussels as a groundbreaking win for competition, early indications from the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) nevertheless raise concerns for the average user.

While the goal was to level the playing field for developers and encourage competition for tech giants, the DMA overlooks something crucial: the user experience. Making software more complex, as the DMA does, makes it harder to use. It is not clear the DMA can deliver genuine consumer benefits alongside increased competition without sacrificing simplicity and convenience for the average user.  

The DMA is a recently enacted EU law intended to promote fair competition in the digital market. It aims to reduce the power of tech giants, which it calls ‘gatekeepers’, in the European market. ‘Gatekeepers’ include Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook owner Meta. The definition of a ‘gatekeeper’ appears arbitrary and at the discretion of Brussels’ lawmakers. 

Initial market responses reveal the DMA’s unintended effects. The recent lobbying effort by airlines and hotels against changes implemented by Google to comply with the DMA highlights the law’s potential to create unintended consequences. The DMA effectively accuses Google of abusing its market position as the world’s largest search engine to give an unfair leg-up to its other services such as Maps, Flights, and Hotels.

Brussels demands Google to roll back these services, which has a domino effect on the other companies which rely on them to bring in customers. 

Businesses like hotels worry that mandated cracking down on market leaders like Google, who provide reams of online traffic and, therefore, customers,  could inadvertently benefit large online travel intermediaries, as opposed to what the law promised, and further fragment the booking process for consumers.

Users can no longer enjoy such straightforward services from Google and must now face a more complex, regulator-defined interface when trying to accomplish a simple task such as comparing flight and hotel prices. 

Compromising security and privacy

Apple’s defiance of the DMA’s sideloading provisions, even after already facing significant fines, illustrates the tension between fostering competition and safeguarding user experience. While the DMA aims to increase choice in app stores, Apple maintains incorporating other app sources onto Apple products, which the DMA demands in the name of competition, might compromise their security and privacy protections.

This conflict raises concerns that a fragmented app marketplace could expose users to greater risk and inconsistency, undermining the smooth user experience valued by many within Apple’s environment. 

According to Google’s own assessment, the DMA’s push for increased choice and openness has led to difficult trade-offs.  While the company aims for compliance, reshaping core features like Google Search risks eroding the functionality and integrated experience that users have come to expect.

Attempts to accommodate the DMA’s mandates might appease regulators, although the threat of gargantuan fines still looms. Either way, the result looks likely to be a less intuitive and streamlined digital experience – the very opposite of what consumers want from market competition. 

The DMA’s early implementation has revealed a troubling pattern. Efforts to curb Big Tech’s dominance, though well-intentioned, risk creating new complexities for the very users the law aims to protect. From the potential fragmentation of travel booking to concerns over app security and user experience, the DMA’s goals seem at odds with the realities of its execution. 

Brussels must maintain sight of the fact that true market fairness means empowering consumers with genuine choice and convenience, not just dismantling monopolies. Accurate consumer-focused evaluation, alongside the flexibility to adjust the regulation where necessary, is crucial to prevent it from becoming another piece of regulation that promises much but delivers disappointment for the average consumer. 

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About the author

Tan Eroğlu

Tan Eroğlu

Tan Eroğlu is the co-founder of Individual Choice Initiative, a consumer advocacy group based in Türkiye, and a policy fellow with Young Voices Europe. He graduated from Bilkent University Faculty of Law and continues his studies as an MA Student at Bilkent University Department of Philosophy.

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