Germany opens probe into Apple’s App Store

21 Jun 2021

Image: © wachiwit/Stock.adobe.com

The country’s federal competition watchdog has been opening several probes into tech giants of late, with Apple next in its sights.

Germany’s federal competition regulator has opened a probe into Apple’s App Store over alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The Bundeskartellamt, or Federal Cartel Office (FCO), is investigating whether Apple, through its App Store, has “paramount significance across markets” and if this stifles competitors.

The regulator said that it is acting on a number of complaints it has received, including complaints from the advertising industry over restrictions to user tracking in iOS 14.5, which was quite contentious when it was introduced earlier this year.

“We will now examine whether with its proprietary operating system iOS, Apple has created a digital ecosystem around its iPhone that extends across several markets. Apple produces tablets, computers and wearables and provides a host of device-related services,” Andreas Mundt, president of the FCO, said.

Mundt did not provide many specifics but referenced the fact that Apple’s business spans hardware, software and services beyond the iPhone, including Apple Music, Apple TV+ and wearables.

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“Besides assessing the company’s position in these areas, we will, among other aspects, examine its extensive integration across several market levels, the magnitude of its technological and financial resources and its access to data,” he said.

“A main focus of the investigations will be on the operation of the App Store as it enables Apple in many ways to influence the business activities of third parties.”

Apple acknowledged the investigation in a brief statement: “We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns.”

The investigation has been launched under a new amendment to the German Competition Act that came into effect in January. Under this same amendment, the FCO launched an investigation into Google last month, as well as probes into Facebook and Amazon.

It’s the next headache for Apple when it comes to the App Store. The European Commission recently accused the tech giant of anti-competitive behaviour with the App Store, claiming abuse of its dominant position.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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