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UK regulators launch Apple App Store probe

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The UK has launched a probe into suspected anti-competitive behavior in regard to Apple’s App Store, the latest in a series of investigations of the company.

What’s the problem?

That an investigation has been announced is not the same as declaring guilt. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) explains: “No decision has yet been made on whether Apple is breaking the law.”

“The CMA’s investigation will consider whether Apple has a dominant position in connection with the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK — and, if so, whether Apple imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store, ultimately resulting in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps and add-ons,” the agency said.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says its enquiry follows complaints from “several developers” who claim Apple’s conditions are unfair and break competition law. They’re unhappy because apps must be approved by Apple and developers must agree to certain terms to do business on the platform the company has built.

The CMA is also questioning the commission Apple charges developers of up to 30% for sales on its store.

What they said

In a statement, CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said:

“Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway. So, complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice — potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps — warrant careful scrutiny.”

The European Commission currently has four open antitrust probes into Apple, including three investigations into the App Store.

What happens next?

The investigative process is quite formal. Investigators are now equipped with formal information-gathering powers to equip the probe. This initial inquiry is expected to extend into September and will include requests for written information, interviews, and possibly even investigators searching Apple’s premises to get information.

In the event sufficient evidence of an infringement is found, the CMA will set out its provisional findings, with evidence, and propose both remedial action and penalties. Apple then gets the right to reply, after which a final decision will be reached with a right of appeal.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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