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Google And Apple To Be Probed For Duopoly By UK Antitrust Watchdog

Claiming that Google and Apple have an “effective duopoly” over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices, UK antitrust watchdog decides to carry out in-depth investigation.

Google And Apple To Be Probed For Duopoly By UK Antitrust Watchdog
Google's and Apple's browser engines accounted for 97 per cent of all mobile traffic.

The United Kingdom’s antitrust watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has confirmed that it is investigating Google and Apple for the power the two companies wield over mobile-device software. 

The issue in question is Google’s and Apple’s respective browser engines having a near-duopoly on web traffic. “Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices,” stated the CMA adding that 97 per cent of all mobile web browsing in the UK for 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine

The CMA had conducted a market study last year that led it to arrive at this conclusion. It has now proposed a market investigation reference, or MIR, with two points of focus. One to look at Apple’s and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and the other to probe Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store.

Sarah Cardell, Interim Chief Executive of the CMA, said, “Many UK businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google. When the new Digital Markets regime is in place, it’s likely to address these sorts of issues. In the meantime, we are using our existing powers to tackle problems where we can. We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors.”

This ‘Phase 2’ of the investigation could take up to 18 months to complete. Meanwhile, after the first announcement of the investigation – which happened in June this year – both the companies filed initial comments.

“Apple considers that a balanced review of the evidence would lead to the conclusion that competition with respect to both mobile browsers and cloud gaming is robust and that, in particular, Apple’s approach provides users with a valuable choice, centered on security, privacy and performance, between ecosystems,” replied Apple.

While Apple treaded the privacy line, Google contented that the main concerns outlined by the CMA were related to iOS and were not an issue on Android. “The CMA’s primary concerns in relation to mobile browser and cloud gaming competition appear to stem from Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines on iOS and its App Store restrictions on cloud gaming. These issues do not arise on Android,” stated Google.

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