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Digital Markets Act in Europe and its Implications

The Digital Markets Act is the European Union’s law to make the markets in the digital sector fairer and more contestable. In order to do so, the Digital Markets Act (‘DMA’) establishes a set of clearly defined objective criteria to identify ‘gatekeepers’, but what are the implications for business websites in this region?

The DMA is one of the first regulatory tools to comprehensively regulate the gatekeeper power of the largest digital companies. (The DMA complements, but does not change EU competition rules, which continue to apply fully).

Gatekeepers are large digital platforms providing so called core platform services, such as online search engines, app stores, messenger services. Gatekeepers had to comply with the obligations and prohibitions listed in the DMA by March 2024, so a while ago Google began testing and rolling out a number of changes to its products.

People and businesses in Europe now are seeing those changes. As those changes are implemented, some of the Google products may look and work differently.

For example:

Additional consents for linked services
Google currently shares data across some of its products and services for certain purposes, including to help personalise content and ads, depending on your settings. European users are now presented with an additional consent banner to ask them whether some services can continue to share data for those purposes. If services aren’t linked, some features may be limited or unavailable. Users can change their choices anytime in their Google Account settings.

Changes to Search results
When searching for something like a hotel, or something to buy, Google often shows information to help find what is needed, like pictures and prices, as part of the results. Sometimes this can be as part of a result for a single business like a hotel or restaurant, or sometimes it can be a featured group of relevant results. The testing of a number of changes to the search results page has now been expanded.

As a result, Google will introduce dedicated units that include a group of links to comparison sites from across the web and query shortcuts at the top of the search page to help people refine their search, including by focusing results just on comparison sites. These changes will result in the removal of some features from the search page, such as the Google Flights unit.

Choice screens
When an Android phone is used it’s possible to switch the default search engine or browser. Under the DMA, Google and other designated companies will need to show additional choice screens. These may now show on Android phones as the device is set up and on the Chrome app on desktop and iOS devices.

Data portability
For over a decade Google has offered users the ability to download or transfer a copy of their data from more than 80 Google products. It continues to make investments in Google Takeout, the Data Transfer Initiative and data portability more broadly. To meet new requirements around moving business data to a third-party app or service, Google is now testing a Data Portability API for developers.

Google has recently been seeking feedback on the changes from the European Commission and from stakeholders like developers, advertisers and companies who will be affected by them. While it supports many of the DMA’s ambitions around consumer choice and interoperability, the new rules involve difficult trade-offs, and it’s concerned that some of these rules will reduce the choices available to people and businesses in Europe.

You can read more about the DMA.

If you want to know how these changes, particularly in the search results could impact your business, please get in touch.