Competition regulator launches investigation into Apple and Google ‘duopoly’

The UK’s competition watchdog is to launch a full investigation into the market dominance of Apple and Google in mobile services.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said a consultation had found substantial industry concerns around the firms’ dominance of mobile web browsers and that Apple restricts cloud gaming on its App Store.

Those findings came after the CMA published an initial report earlier this year which said the two companies have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that enables them to exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

The CMA said browser vendors, web developers and cloud gaming service providers told them the current system is harming their businesses, holding back innovation and adding unnecessary costs.

Concerns have previously been raised about the level of control Apple and Google are able to exercise over the apps that appear on their respective app stores and, ultimately, on their popular mobile devices, which also dominate the phone and tablet market.

Both Apple and Google have argued the control and restrictions it places on developers is to better protect users.

The CMA said its investigation will now consider these points and whether new rules are needed to drive better outcomes for users in the UK.

“We want to make sure that UK consumers get the best new mobile data services and that UK developers can invest in innovative new apps,” Sarah Cardell, CMA interim chief executive 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.”

In response, a Google spokesperson said: “Android (Google’s mobile operating system) gives people a greater choice of apps and app stores than any other mobile platform.

“It also enables developers to choose the browser engine they want and has been the launchpad for millions of apps.

“We’re committed to building thriving, open platforms that empower consumers and help developers build successful businesses.”

Apple said: “Apple believes in vibrant and competitive markets where innovation can thrive.

Through the App Store, we’ve helped millions of developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world, spurring an app economy that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK alone.

“We will continue to engage constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are always protected.”