The European Commission has opened its first "non-compliance" investigations against Alphabet, Apple and Meta under the Digital Markets Act, a law that is designed to stop Big Tech companies from cornering digital markets.

In a statement on March 25, the commission, which is executive of the 27-nation European Union bloc said that it was investigating Alphabet’s rules on steering in Google Play and self-preferencing on Google Search, Apple’s rules on steering in the App Store and the choice screen for Safari and Meta’s “pay or consent model.”

In addition, the Commission has launched investigatory steps relating to Apple's new fee structure for alternative app stores and Amazon's ranking practices on its marketplace.

According to the European Commission, some large online platforms act as "gatekeepers" in digital markets and the Digital Markets Act aims to ensure that these platforms behave in a fair way online.

Together with the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act is one of the centrepieces of the European digital strategy.

The European Union regulator had in September 2023 designated as gatekeepers six companies - Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft, covering 22 core platform services. The law requires the gatekeepers - which provide services such as search engines, social networks and chat apps used by other businesses - to comply with guidance to ensure a level playing field for their rivals and to give users more choices.

In its statement, the commission said that it "suspects that the measures put in place by these gatekeepers fall short of effective compliance of their obligations under the DMA".

The DMA act took effect on March 7.

The Commission said it intends to conclude the proceedings opened within 12 months. In case of an infringement of rules, the Commission can impose fines up to 10 per cent of the company's total worldwide turnover. Such fines can go up to 20 per cent in case of repeated infringement.

"The Digital Markets Act became applicable on March 7. We have been in discussions with gatekeepers for months to help them adapt, and we can already see changes happening on the market. But 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," Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market said.