Digital Markets Act - the FSFE calls for Device Neutrality
On the imminent voting of the Digital Markets Act - the latest EU proposal on internet platform regulation - the FSFE demands device neutrality as a fundamental element for safeguarding consumer protection in open, fair, and contestable digital markets.
While digital devices are a ubiquitous reality in all aspects of life, control over the hardware and software running on them is increasingly being limited by internet platforms, digital services providers, hardware manufacturers, and vendors. The European Commission's Digital Markets Act (DMA) is a regulatory instrument for targeting large internet companies that act as gatekeepers in digital markets. Such gatekeepers may be internet platforms, service providers, manufacturers, and vendors satisfying criteria defined by law. This regulatory initiative is an attempt to create fairer and more competitive markets for online platforms in the EU. On November 22, the European Parliament's leading IMCO committee will vote on its position.
The FSFE urges the Members of the European Parliament in the upcoming vote to safeguard device neutrality principles based on Open Standards and interoperability, securing the interest of consumers for a contestable, open, and competitive digital market in the EU.
Free Software and Device Neutrality
Device neutrality translates as non-discrimination of services and apps by providers, manufacturers, and vendors. The objective of device neutrality is to enable consumers to bypass gatekeepers and enable a fair and non-discriminatory use of Free Software in the application and operating system layers of devices. The FSFE demands the inclusion of the following principles in the DMA legislation:
- Strict end-user consent for pre-installed apps. The DMA must impose on gatekeepers the obligation to allow their customers to uninstall any pre-installed software applications they provide on their services or with their hardware. This means more restrictive rules for pre-installed apps, providing users the same access privileges for both pre-installed and alternative apps, and the possibility to uninstall pre-loaded apps;
- No vendor lock-in. The DMA should enable side-loading of apps in dominant operating systems, so consumers can install any compatible software on their devices. The DMA shall require gatekeepers to permit third-party app stores and code repositories that compete with their own. The law must prohibit gatekeepers limiting the ability of end-users to switch between and subscribe to different software applications and services. This prevents gatekeepers from locking users into specific service providers;
- Interoperability of services based on Open Standards. It is urgent for the DMA to require gatekeepers to provide free of charge access to and interoperability with the same hardware and software features accessed or controlled via an operating system. This includes communication apps and social media platforms. Interoperability should be defined by Open Standards;
- Real-time data portability. The DMA should require gatekeepers to provide real-time data portability for devices, so that consumers can switch from one device to another - including operating systems - as smoothly as possible.
After the committee voting on Monday, 22 November, the proposal will incorporate the approved amendments. Next up is the plenary voting to achieve the final position of the European Parliament, planned for December. The FSFE will continue to monitor the whole process closely and demand device neutrality to the full extent in the legislative text, so users are empowered to control technology.
"The digital markets will benefit by the regulatory proposal of the DMA. Device neutrality is fundamental for a fair, competitive, and contestable market. We demand stricter consent rules for pre-installed apps, no vendor lock-in, full interoperability, and real-time data portability. Free Software and Open Standards are key to achieve these goals", says Lucas Lasota, the FSFE's Deputy Legal Coordinator.