Apple Subject to 'Special Abuse Control' Says German Antitrust Regulator [Updated]

Germany's Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office or FCO) antitrust authority today announced that Apple is subject to "extended abuse control" under the German Competition Act, which means that German regulators can prevent the company from engaging in "anti-competitive practices."

apple app tracking transparency ad
FCO president Andreas Mundt said that Apple's economic position is not adequately controlled by competition, giving German authorities the right to step in.

Apple has an economic position of power across markets which gives rise to a scope of action that is not sufficiently controlled by competition. Based on its mobile end devices such as the iPhone, Apple operates a wide-ranging digital ecosystem which is of great importance to competition not only in Germany, but also throughout Europe and the world. With its proprietary products iOS and the App Store, Apple holds a key position for competition as well as for gaining access to the ecosystem and Apple customers. This decision enables us to specifically take action against and effectively prohibit anti-competitive practices.

In the press release, the FCO says that Apple's two billion device active install base gives it a "strong power" to create rules for third parties, with Apple exerting control over customers and access to customers. Combined with Apple's resources, Apple is in a "position of power" that makes it subject to the aforementioned "special abuse control." This designation is valid for five years.

German regulators are already looking into Apple's ad tracking rules and App Tracking Transparency, a measure that requires apps to get explicit user consent before tracking them. The investigation began in 2022 with the aim of determining whether Apple's anti-tracking technology is anti-competitive.

At the current time, the FCO has not decided whether to initiate further proceedings against Apple. Alphabet/Google, Meta/Facebook, and Amazon have previously been subject to these rules. A 2021 amendment to the German Competition Act provided the FCO with the power to "intervene early and more effectively" to prevent major tech companies from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

In a statement to MacRumors, Apple said that it plans to appeal the decision, and that it does not agree with some of the claims used to classify the company as in a position of power.

Apple is proud to be an engine for innovation, job creation, and competition in every market where we operate. The FCO’s designation misrepresents the fierce competition Apple faces in Germany, and it discounts the value of a business model that puts user privacy and security at its core. While we will continue to work with the FCO to understand their concerns, we plan to appeal their decision.

Apple said that the FCO is not presenting an accurate picture of the hardware market in Germany, and that the decision is not based on Apple's true competitive significance. Despite the FCO's claims that Apple's ecosystem limits customer choice, Apple says that iPhone and iPad are not stuck with the Apple ecosystem, but rather choose to use Apple products due to loyalty to the company.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Popular Stories

Apple Vision Pro 2 Feature 2

Apple Reportedly Suspends Work on Vision Pro 2

Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:17 am PDT by
Apple has suspended work on the second-generation Vision Pro headset to singularly focus on a cheaper model, The Information reports. Apple was widely believed to have plans to divide its Vision product line into two models, with one "Pro" model and one lower-cost standard model. The company is said to have been deprioritizing the next Vision Pro headset over the past year, gradually...
Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
2022 back to school apple feature

Apple's 2024 Back to School Sale Launching This Week

Monday June 17, 2024 12:27 pm PDT by
Apple will launch its annual Back to School promotion for university students in the United States and Canada this week, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple's back to school sales provide students with a free Apple gift card when purchasing a Mac or an iPad, and this year's promotion could help Apple push the new M2 iPad Air and M4 iPad Pro models. Last year, Apple offered U.S....
apple watch series 9 display

Kuo: Apple Watch Series 10 to Get Larger Screen and Thinner Design

Monday June 17, 2024 1:20 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 10 will be thinner and come in larger screen sizes than previous models, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In his latest industry note -10-and-98075c44ce92">shared on Medium, Kuo said the screen size options on the next-generation Apple Watch will increase from 41mm to 45mm, and from 45mm to 49mm, while being encased in a thinner design. For reference,...
M4 Real Feature Red

M4 MacBook Pro Models Expected to Launch in Late 2024

Tuesday June 18, 2024 10:50 am PDT by
MacBook Pro models with an M4 chip are expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2024, according to display analyst Ross Young. In a tweet for subscribers, Young said that panel shipments for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are set to begin in the third quarter of 2024, which suggests a launch toward the end of the year. Apple started its M4 chip refresh in May with the launch...
Apple Pay Later feature 1

Apple Discontinuing Apple Pay Later

Monday June 17, 2024 11:44 am PDT by
Apple is discontinuing Apple Pay Later, the buy now, pay later feature that it just launched last October. Apple Pay Later is being discontinued as of today, but people who have existing Apple Pay Later loans will be able to continue to pay them off and manage them through the Wallet app. Apple announced plans to end the feature in a statement provided to 9to5Mac, which also notes that...
watchOS 11 Thumb 2 1

watchOS 11 Supports Automatic Nap Detection

Monday June 17, 2024 4:05 pm PDT by
watchOS 11 appears to include a new feature that allows an Apple Watch to automatically detect and record when you're taking a nap. As shared on Reddit, an Apple Watch owner took a nap and was able to see the sleep data recorded in the Health app, despite not putting the device in Sleep Mode. Right now, the Apple Watch only tracks and records sleep when it is in Sleep Mode, and there is no...
iPod Nano vs iPod Pro Ad Feature 1

Apple Developing Thinner MacBook Pro, Apple Watch, and iPhone

Monday June 17, 2024 2:22 am PDT by
Apple intends to slim down the MacBook Pro, Apple Watch, and iPhone, with the new ultra-thin M4 iPad Pro a sign of the company's new design trajectory, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. When the M4 iPad Pro was unveiled last month, Apple touted it as the company's thinnest product ever, and even compared it to the 2012 iPod nano to emphasize its slim dimensions. Writing in the latest ...

Top Rated Comments

roar08 Avatar
16 months ago
It's unsurprising, but still a little strange to me when governments take the position to move against policies that attempt to protect privacy. It's probably a healthy blend of stupidity and corruption.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
16 months ago

Kind of ironic that one of the countries with the strongest privacy laws in the world with go after Apple for trying to enforce user privacy.
This article does not cover the full story. It is not actually about the fact that Apple decided to hinder tracking, what they want to know or look into is why Apple is seemingly excepted from that rule and if Apple says they do not track in the first place GREAT but it doesn’t hurt to make sure this claim is true. Just like the US is still looking into TikTok, even though TikTok says they don’t share data with China

In a specific case, the Cartel Office is investigating Apple's App Tracking Transparency Framework. This ties the tracking of user behavior for third-party app providers to certain conditions and is particularly important for app providers whose offerings are financed with advertising. "In particular, the Bundeskartellamt is investigating the initial suspicion that these regulations give preferential treatment to Apple's own offers," the authority explained.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sw1tcher Avatar
16 months ago
InB4PeopleSayAppleShouldPullOutOfGermanMarket ?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
neuropsychguy Avatar
16 months ago
"Bundeskartellamt says that Apple's two billion device active install base gives it a 'strong power' to create rules for third parties"

How many active devices does Apple have in Germany? Using the worldwide number as rationale for controls in Germany is poor rationale. For example, if Apple has 2 billion active devices in the world but only 50 in Germany, using the world number to allow extra control (investigation) of Apple's actions in Germany would be more than heavy-handed. Of course, the reality is there are more active Apple devices than that in Germany but using market share outside of a country for within-country regulations comes across as overreach, at best.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MallardDuck Avatar
16 months ago
Kind of ironic that one of the countries with the strongest privacy laws in the world with go after Apple for trying to enforce user privacy.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bsolar Avatar
16 months ago

Kind of ironic that one of the countries with the strongest privacy laws in the world with go after Apple for trying to enforce user privacy.
There is a difference between trying to enforce user privacy and using user privacy as justification for anti-competitive practices. My understanding is that the authority is fine with the former but wants to make sure Apple is not actually engaged in the latter.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)