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UK competition regulator launches Apple probe

By AFP - Mar 08,2021 - Last updated at Mar 08,2021

The Apple logo is seen on a window of the company's store in Bangkok, on Friday (AFP photo)

LONDON — Britain's competition regulator on Thursday launched an investigation into US tech giant Apple that will focus on its App Store.

In a statement, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will examine Apple's position regarding the distribution of apps on its iPhones, iPads and other devices in Britain.

Apple said in response that it looked forward to working with the CMA to explain how its "guidelines for privacy, security and content have made the App Store a trusted marketplace for both consumers and developers".

Apple's App Store is the only way for developers to distribute their apps on the US company's devices to the public.

"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," the regulator said.

The CMA will also examine "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".

Apple must first approve all apps before they are placed on the App Store and developers must agree to certain terms, the CMA noted.

"The probe has been prompted by the CMA's own work in the digital sector, as well as several developers reporting that Apple's terms and conditions are unfair and could break competition law," the regulator added.

The CMA said complaints highlighted also that Apple required "in-app" features, add-ons and upgrades to use the US group's payment system, rather than any alternative.

Apple charges a commission to developers on the value of those transactions.

"Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway," said CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli."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.

"Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends. We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked," he added.

The CMA is establishing a digital markets division to tackle such practices.

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