The UK’s competition watchdog has begun its investigation into the market dominance of Apple and Google’s mobile browsers, months after it said it was considering a high-level probe.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced Tuesday that responses to its June consultation had revealed “substantial support” for a full investigation into how Apple and Google dominate the market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store.
The consultation found 86% of respondents support taking a closer look at Apple and Google’s market dominance. Browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers said the tech giants’ mobile ecosystems are harming their businesses, holding back innovation, and adding unnecessary costs.
The feedback effectively justifies the findings of a year-long study by the CMA into Apple and Google’s mobile ecosystems, which the regulatory body called an “effective duopoly” that allows the companies to “exercise a stranglehold over these markets.” According to the CMA, 97% of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine, so any restrictions can have a major impact on users’ experiences.
“Many UK businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google,” said Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, in a statement.
“We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors.”
As part of the market investigation, which is required to end within 18 months, the CMA can request extensive information from Apple to draw conclusions and implement legally binding remedies, which could potentially include orders that require Apple to make material changes to its practices.
An Apple spokesperson said: “We will continue to engage constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are always protected.”
Separately, the CMA continues to examine Apple’s App Store terms and conditions in a competition law investigation that started in March 2021, and the UK government is empowering its Digital Markets Unit with statutory powers to penalize companies that do not meet its rules with considerable fines. The British government says it will present regulations to combat anti-competitive abuses before May next year in the form of a Digital Markets Competition and Consumers Bill.
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