Apple and Google face UK probe over mobile browser market ‘duopoly’

10 Jun 2022

Image: © DenPhoto/

The CMA said the two tech giants can exercise a ‘stranglehold’ in the mobile ecosystem, impacting the British tech sector and limiting choice.

The UK’s competition watchdog is considering a market investigation into Google and Apple’s dominant position in the mobile browser market.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said today (10 June) that a year-long study into the tech giants found that they have an “effective duopoly” on mobile ecosystems, which allows them to exercise a “stranglehold” over these markets.

The competition watchdog made a similar claim last December, when an interim investigation report claimed that Apple and Google use their market power to create “largely self-contained ecosystems” – making it difficult for other players to meaningfully compete.

“When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards,” said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli. “As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice.”

The CMA study found that 97pc of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engines. The watchdog said Apple bans alternatives to its own Safari browser, which limits the potential for rival browsers.

The watchdog also noted that mobile devices usually have either Google Chrome or Apple’s Safari pre-installed and set as default browsers, which gives them a “key advantage” over their rivals.

“Apple and Google both have strong positions in mobile web browsing, with a combined share of supply of around 90pc for their browsers,” the CMA said.

“Without interventions, both companies are likely to maintain, and even strengthen, their grip over the sector, further restricting competition and limiting incentives for innovators.”

The CMA is also planning an investigation into Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming on its App Store. The watchdog found that Apple has blocked the emergence of cloud gaming services on this store.

The UK watchdog said gaming apps are a “key source of revenue” for Apple, which makes cloud gaming a threat to its strong position in app distribution.

The CMA has also launched a competition law investigation into Google today. This probe will examine rules governing apps’ access to listing on its Play Store.

Last month, the UK watchdog launched an investigation into potential anticompetitive behaviour by Google within the ad-tech space, which was the second probe into the search giant’s ad practices in less than three months.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic