UK Begins Market Investigation into Apple and Google's Mobile Dominance

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.

app store blue banner uk fixed
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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Top Rated Comments

wanha Avatar
18 months ago
Nokia, Samsung, and Microsoft - they all tried to break into the mobile OS game.

They all poured a TON of money to make it happen.

But they couldn't, because:

1. there was no market demand for a third OS (i.e. what could a third OS provide the other two can't?), and

2. app developers were not willing to support a third platform with a smaller user base.

This dynamic created what is effectively a duopoly that we see today.

It is natural and inevitable for governments to look into all duopolies, especially ones that impose their own policies and rules on all that use them.

I hope that governments reach sensible conclusions on this, but not holding my breath.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wanha Avatar
18 months ago

Apple and Google should form a union. If a country wants to play with hard rules, then Apple and Google can collectively pull out of the country. Imagine a country left without iOS and Android in 2023. Let's see how fast their citizens overthrow their government.
Yeah let's replace governments with for-profit businesses, what could possibly go wrong
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tann Avatar
18 months ago
Doesn’t take much thinking to reach the conclusion there is a Duopoly!!
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
falkon-engine Avatar
18 months ago
There’ll always be multiple sides to this debate but the App Store is restrictive in many ways, including not allowing other web browser backends besides WebKit, the policies related to in app purchases for digital goods, not allowing alternative competitor app stores, not officially allowing side loading if the user so desires (users can side load to a limited degree if they have a developer account).

There are many potential legal apps or extended functionality that apple may not want in its App Store (e.g., Wi-Fi explorer or a better springboard/stage manager implementation, etc.) that are possibly innovative. And iPhones aren’t cheap, so in some ways apple may be stifling innovation, and in my humble opinion, users should be given more choice.

Of course there are those who say well If you want choice then get android. But governments can also respond and say to Apple if you’re too restrictive on choice and competition (and ultimately unfairly or unnecessarily restrict otherwise legal trade between consumers and corporations) then no license for you to operate in our country or state. I like my iPhone. I also like android. But I also wish iPhone/iPad was a bit less restrictive in where we can get our apps. Especially iPad, that literally has the same chip as a Mac… yet the mac can side load but the iPad cannot. Same hardware, completely different policies for loading software. Seems arbitrary and capricious to me.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wanha Avatar
18 months ago

I didn't say let's replace governments with for-profit businesses.
You said Apple and Google should collude to force government's hand or for their citizens to elect governments that let Apple and Google do what they want.

It amounts to the same thing - more power and freedom for Apple and Google.

I'm not sure that's in the people's interest.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
senttoschool Avatar
18 months ago
Apple and Google should form a union. If a country wants to play with hard rules, then Apple and Google can collectively pull out of the country. Imagine a country left without iOS and Android in 2023. Let's see how fast their citizens overthrow their government.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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