Apple to be investigated by UK competition watchdog

4 Mar 2021

Image: © EdNurg/Stock.adobe.com

The UK competition regulator is investigating whether Apple imposes unfair or anticompetitive terms on developers using the App Store.

Last month, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager warned tech giant Apple that it must give equal treatment to all apps on its platform following a privacy update from the company.

Now, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched its own investigation into the iPhone maker following complaints that the company’s terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anticompetitive.

In a statement, the CMA said the complaints from developers focus on the terms that mean they can only distribute their apps to iPhones and iPads via the App Store.

“These complaints also highlight that certain developers who offer ‘in-app’ features, add-ons or upgrades are required to use Apple’s payment system, rather than an alternative system,” it said. “Apple charges a commission of up to 30pc to developers on the value of these transactions or any time a consumer buys their app.”

‘Worrying trends’

The regulator’s investigation will also examine whether Apple has a monopoly in relation to the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK.

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Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said complaints about Apple using its market position to set unfair terms that restrict competition warrant “careful scrutiny”.

“Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends,” he said.

“We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anticompetitive 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 is already facing a probe from the European Commission, which launched an antitrust investigation into the tech company last July regarding its App Store practices.

Separately, after months of feuding, Fortnite make Epic Games has taken its fight with Apple to Europe, filing an antitrust complaint with the commission following similar actions it has taken in the US, UK and Australia. Epic’s complaint is related to Apple’s control over revenue generated in the App Store.

Epic is also taking legal action against Apple in the US over the issue. Earlier this week, a date of 3 May was set for the trial, which could have a far-reaching impact on other digital storefronts.

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com