Competition and Markets Authority

CMA launches investigation into Apple’s App Store

The U.K. competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Apple’s App Store over concerns it has a dominant role that stifles competition and hurts consumers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigating Apple’s conduct in relation to the distribution of apps on iOS and iPadOS devices in the UK, in particular, the terms and conditions governing app developers’ access to Apple’s App Store.

Apple said the App Store is “a safe and trusted place for customers” and a “great business opportunity for developers.”

The investigation was triggered in part by complaints from app developers that Apple will only let them distribute their apps to iPhone and iPad users through the App Store. The developers also complained that the company requires any purchases of apps, add-ons or upgrades to be made through its Apple Pay system, which charges up to 30% commission.

“Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway,” Andrea Coscelli, the authority’s CEO, said in a statement.

“So, complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice – potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps – warrant careful scrutiny.”

The watchdog said it would consider whether Apple has a “dominant position” in app distribution for Apple devices in the U.K., and, if it does, whether the company “imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers” that results in less choice or higher prices for consumers buying apps and extra.

Back in December the CMA released its recommendations for the establishment of a new UKDigital Markets Unit within the watchdog. CMA bosses want the unit to have legal powers, and want to be able to issue tech giants with tailored rules in a bid to “proactively shape” their behaviour.

Apple said it looked forward to explaining its App Store guidelines to the U.K. watchdog.

We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for customers to download the apps they love and a great business opportunity for developers everywhere.

“In the UK alone, the iOS app economy supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, and any developer with a great idea is able to reach Apple customers around the world.

“We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish. The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place – applied fairly and equally to all developers – to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent.

“We look forward to working with the UK Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our guidelines for privacy, security and content have made the App Store a trusted marketplace for both consumers and developers.”

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