Apple wins appeal in the UK over browser market dominance

3 Apr 2023

Image: © Tada Images/

The Competition Appeals Tribunal ruled that the CMA failed to stick to statutory timeframes for its investigation into Apple.

Apple has won its appeal against an anti-competition watchdog’s probe into its mobile browser and cloud gaming service that attempted to break its dominance in the UK market.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) first began considering a market investigation into Google and Apple’s dominant position in the mobile browser market last summer. In November, the CMA opened a full investigation into the two tech giants’ operations in the UK.

Apple then appealed the decision on the basis that the CMA did not have the power to launch the investigation because it was too late. According to reports, a lawyer for Apple argued the market investigation should have been opened last June when it first began considering acting.

Now, the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) has ruled that the CMA failed to stick to established statutory timeframes for such investigations.

“The CMA did not have the option to decide not to make a reference at all with a reservation entitling it to revisit that decision at its discretion at a later date,” the CAT wrote in its judgement last week.

“The choice made by the CMA – to make a final decision not to refer – is, as we have said, questionable on public law grounds.”

The CMA expressed its disappointment at the Tribunal’s finding that there are “material constraints” on the watchdog’s general ability to refer markets for in-depth investigations.

“This risks substantially undermining the CMA’s ability to efficiently and effectively investigate and intervene in markets where competition is not working well,” a spokesperson for the watchdog said today.

“Given the importance of today’s judgement, we will be considering our options including seeking permission to appeal.”

The competition watchdog made a similar claim in December 2021, 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.

Meanwhile, Apple said after the latest ruling in a statement seen by TechCrunch that it believed in “vibrant and competitive markets where innovation can flourish.”

“Through the Apple ecosystem we have created a safe and trusted experience users love and a great business opportunity for developers,” a spokesperson for the company said.

“In the UK alone, the iOS app economy supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and makes it possible for developers big and small to reach customers around the world.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic