United Kingdom

UK competition watchdog investigates Apple over 'anti-competitive' terms for app developers 

The UK competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Apple over complaints that its terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anti-competitive.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will look into concerns that Apple abuses its dominant position over the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK.

As well as manufacturing the likes of the iPhone and the iPad, Apple controls the App Store, which is the only way for developers to distribute apps on to Apple’s ecosystem and the only way for the public to access them.

The tech giant is accused of engaging in anti-competitive practices by cutting small businesses off from desperately needed customers.

In France, an antitrust legal action has already been launched by a consortium of businesses, Apple is currently facing an antitrust investigations by the European Commission and is also the subject of legal complaints from Fortnite maker Epic Games in the US for allegedly abusing its market position.

The CMA will seek to establish if Apple has acted unfairly and as a result it meant users had less choice or have had to pay higher prices for apps and additional content.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will look into concerns that Apple abuses its dominant position over the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK.

The watchdog said it launched its investigation after carrying out its own work in the sector, as well as in response to concerns raised by developers over this set-up, which some suggest allows Apple to impose unfair terms on developers.

“Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway,” CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said.

“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.

“Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends. We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked.

“That’s why we’re pressing on with setting up the new Digital Markets Unit and launching new investigations wherever we have grounds to do so.”

Apple has also faced a wave of criticism for changes to its operating system that critics say will stifle competition under the guise of privacy, while devastating the mobile advertising market to the benefit of Apple.

At the crux of the issue is changes to be introduced in Apple's iOS 14.5 that will require users to give permission in order for apps to track them for advertising purposes.

Apple's own apps will be exempt from the new prompt requirement that the iPhone maker is planning to impose on other companies.

Apple said in a statement: “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.

Apple is already facing questions over changes to iOS 14.5 that will require iPhone users to give consent for apps to track them for personalised ads. Apple's own apps will be exempt 

“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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