Digital Markets Act — Definitions and scope of protection

The DMA is aimed at digi­tal plat­forms and is inten­ded to sub­ject them to a sec­tor-spe­ci­fic mar­ket regu­la­ti­on regime. For this pur­po­se, a black­list of mea­su­res that are no lon­ger tole­ra­ted from a com­pe­ti­ti­ve point of view is to be included, which are pro­hi­bi­ted for “gate­kee­pers”. In addi­ti­on, the EU Com­mis­si­on is to be given exten­ded pos­si­bi­li­ties to inves­ti­ga­te the mar­ket in order to iden­ti­fy fur­ther pos­si­ble addres­sees of the­se regulations.

Scope of protection and application

The title of the draft alre­a­dy reve­als that this regu­la­ti­on is par­al­lel to the other instru­ments of mar­ket regu­la­ti­on. It reads “on con­test­a­ble and fair mar­kets in the digi­tal sec­tor”. Art. 1 para. 1 DMA pro­vi­des that this con­te­st­a­bi­li­ty and fair­ness is gua­ran­teed in digi­tal mar­kets whe­re gate­kee­pers are active.

The dif­fe­rence to anti­trust law: With the­se two objec­ti­ves, the DMA devia­tes from the anti­trust law prin­ci­ple of com­pe­ti­ti­on poli­cy neu­tra­li­ty. Its addres­sees should no lon­ger be able to free­ly dis­po­se of the free­doms of com­pe­ti­ti­on, which are only limi­t­ed by the per se pro­hi­bi­ti­ons under anti­trust law, but should also be given a con­cre­te direc­tion through posi­ti­ve regu­la­to­ry requirements.


The regu­la­ti­on is aimed at so-cal­led gate­kee­pers. Accor­ding to Art. 2 No. 1 DMA, the­se are defi­ned as ope­ra­tors of cen­tral plat­form ser­vices, which are desi­gna­ted accor­ding to Art. 3 DMA. The cen­tral plat­form ser­vices cover­ed are lis­ted enu­me­ra­tively in Art. 2 No. 2 DMA and cover typi­cal examp­les of the occur­rence of digi­tal plat­forms. In addi­ti­on, the­re is the for­mal desi­gna­ti­on as gate­kee­per accor­ding to Art. 3 DMA.

Dif­fe­rence to the Ger­man GWB: Unli­ke Sec­tion 19a ARC, howe­ver, the gate­kee­per posi­ti­on does not only come about as a result of a for­mal admi­nis­tra­ti­ve pro­ce­du­re. Rather, accor­ding to Art. 3 para. 2 DMA, the ope­ra­tor has an acti­ve duty to noti­fy, non-com­pli­ance with which can be sanc­tion­ed accor­ding to Art. 26 para. 2 lit. a DMA.

Degree of harmonisation

Accor­ding to Art. 1 para. 5 DMA, mem­ber sta­tes may not impo­se any fur­ther obli­ga­ti­ons to ensu­re con­test­a­ble and fair mar­kets. The appli­ca­ti­on of the anti­trust pro­vi­si­ons remains in place. This alre­a­dy fol­lows from the other scope of pro­tec­tion of competition.

Con­flict with Sec­tion 19a of the ARC: Howe­ver, this could beco­me cri­ti­cal with regard to the appli­ca­ti­on of the new­ly intro­du­ced Sec­tion 19a GWB. This pro­vi­si­on is embedded next to the other pro­vi­si­ons on abu­se con­trol in the Ger­man GWB. Howe­ver, espe­ci­al­ly with regard to the posi­ti­ve examp­les in Sec­tion 19a (2) GWB, it is obvious that the pur­po­se of this pro­vi­si­on is also to ensu­re com­pe­ti­ti­ve con­te­st­a­bi­li­ty. Thus, a con­flict could ari­se here.

Distinction from the regulation of interpersonal communications services

Art. 1(3) DMA is inten­ded to cla­ri­fy that this instru­ment is not inten­ded to regu­la­te elec­tro­nic com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons net­works (aka tele­com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons net­works) and also, in prin­ci­ple, not elec­tro­nic com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices (aka tele­com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices). Excluded from this — i.e. cover­ed by the DMA — are inter­per­so­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices. Num­ber-inde­pen­dent inter­per­so­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices are also lis­ted in Art. 2 No. 2 lit. e DMA in the list of cen­tral plat­form services.

Rela­ti­onship to the EECC: Fur­ther­mo­re, it is cla­ri­fied that the regu­la­ti­on of inter­per­so­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices under the EECC is not to be affected:

  • The scope of appli­ca­ti­on for num­ber-inde­pen­dent inter­per­so­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices for regu­la­ti­on is, howe­ver, limi­t­ed to inter­ope­ra­bi­li­ty obli­ga­ti­ons. Accor­din­gly, the DMA‑E would cover the need for mar­ket regu­la­ti­on here in other respects.
  • The legis­la­ti­ve com­pe­ti­ti­on will be much more inten­se for num­ber-based inter­per­so­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons ser­vices, which are alre­a­dy cover­ed by more regu­la­ti­ons under the EECC. Howe­ver, this could be resol­ved accor­ding to the fact that mar­ket regu­la­ti­on under tele­com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons law is only direc­ted at infra­struc­tu­re ope­ra­tors. Accor­din­gly, the pro­ce­du­ral over­laps could be rather small.

When does one become a gatekeeper?

Art. 3 para. 1 DMA pro­vi­des the mate­ri­al pre­re­qui­si­tes for the need for regu­la­ti­on as a gate­kee­per. Art. 3 para. 2 DMA spe­ci­fies thres­hold values abo­ve which it can be assu­med that the requi­re­ment is met. This is pre­sen­ted as follows:

  1. Signi­fi­cant impact on the inter­nal mar­ket = Ope­ra­ting com­pa­ny with: Tur­no­ver: At least EUR 6.5 bil­li­on tur­no­ver last three finan­cial years in the EEA or EUR 65 bil­li­on mar­ket capitalisation/​market value in the last finan­cial year and. Dis­tri­bu­ti­on: Ope­ra­ti­on of a cen­tral plat­form ser­vice in at least three Mem­ber States.
  2. Ope­ra­ti­on of a cen­tral plat­form ser­vice that ser­ves as an important gate­way to end users for com­mer­cial users = Ope­ra­ti­on of cen­tral plat­form ser­vice in the last finan­cial year. MAU: To > 45 mil­li­on month­ly acti­ve users (MAU) established/​residing in the Uni­on; and YABU: with > 10,000 annu­al acti­ve busi­ness users estab­lished in the Uni­on (YABU).
  3. Hol­ding or fore­seeable attain­ment in the near future of a con­so­li­da­ted and las­ting posi­ti­on with regard to its acti­vi­ties = thres­holds for the first two con­di­ti­ons rea­ched over the last three finan­cial years. 

Mar­ket assess­ment bey­ond car­tel law: From the­se pre­re­qui­si­tes it beco­mes clear that the addres­see posi­ti­on is not lin­ked to car­tel law cri­te­ria of mar­ket ana­ly­sis. This is always chal­len­ged befo­re com­plex plat­form cases. For this reason alo­ne, the calls for a more effec­ti­ve mar­ket ana­ly­sis have increased.

Sec­tor-spe­ci­fic approach: The approach of the draft DMA is con­sis­tent inso­far as the requi­re­ments are lin­ked sec­tor-spe­ci­fi­cal­ly to the plat­form struc­tu­re and to figu­res that are com­pa­ra­tively easy to pro­ve empirically.

About the author

Porträtbild von Dr. Sebastian Louven

Dr. Sebastian Louven

I have been an independent lawyer since 2016 and advise mainly on antitrust law and telecommunications law. Since 2022 I am a specialist lawyer for international business law.

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