The UK’s competition watchdog will take a deep dive look into Apple and Google’s dominance of the mobile ecosystem, it said today — announcing a market study that will examine the pair’s respective smartphone platforms (iOS and Android), their(App Store and Play Store); and web browsers (Safari and Chrome).
It added that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is concerned that the mobile platform giants’ “effective duopoly” in those areas might harm consumers. The study will be wide-ranging, with theabout the nested gateways that are created as a result of the pair’s dominance of the mobile ecosystem — intermediating how consumers can access a variety of products, content, and services (such as music, TV, and video streaming; fitness tracking, shopping, and banking, to cite some of the examples provided by the CMA).
“These products also include other technology and devices such as smart speakers, smartwatches, home security and lighting (which mobiles can connect to and control),” it went on, adding that it’s looking into whether their dominance of these pipes is “stifling competition across a range of digital markets”, saying too that it’s “concerned this could lead to reduced innovation across the sector and consumers paying higher prices for devices and apps, or for other goods and services due to higher advertising prices”.
The CMA further confirmed the deep dive would examine “any effects” of the pair’s market power over other businesses — giving the example of app developers who rely on Apple or Google to market their products to customers via their smart devices. The watchdog already has an open investigation into Apple’s , following several antitrust complaints by developers.
It isGoogle’s planned depreciation of third-party tracking cookies, too, as complaints by adtech companies and publishers that the move could harm competition. (And just last week, the CMA said it was minded to accept a series of concessions that would enable the regulator to stop turning off support for cookies entirely if it believes the move will harm competition.)
The CMA said both those existing investigations examine issues that fall within the scope of the new mobile ecosystem market study but that its work on the latter will be “much broader”. It added that it would adopt a joined-up approach across all related cases — “to ensure the best outcomes for consumers and other businesses”.
It’s giving itself a whole year to examine Gapple’s mobile ecosystems. It also solicits feedback on any issues app developers, via its questionnaire, by the same date.by 26 July. The CMA added that it’s also keen to hear from
Taking on tech giants
The watchdog has previously scrutinized the— and found plenty to be concerned about vis-a-vis Google’s dominance there. That earlier has been feeding the UK government’s plan to reform competition rules to consider the market-deforming power of digital giants. And the CMA examining ‘Gapple’s’ mobile muscle, could similarly help shape UK-wide competition law reforms.
shape platforms’ behavior” to avoid harmful behavior before it happens” — saying too that it supports enabling ex-ante interventions once a platform has been identified to have so-called “strategic market status”.the UK announced its plan to set up a “pro-competition” regime for regulating Internet platforms — including establishing a dedicated Digital Markets Unit within the CMA (which got going earlier this year). The has not yet been put before parliament. Still, the government has said it wants the competition regulator to be able to “proactively
Germany already adopted similar reforms to its competition law (early this year), which enable proactive interventions to tackle large digital platforms with what is described as “paramount significance for competition across markets”. The CMA also sounds keen to get going to tackle Internet gatekeepers. And its Federal Cartel Office has wasted no time, Google, and Facebook have such a status.
Commenting in a statement, CEO Andrea Coscelli said:
“Apple and Google control the major gateways through which people download apps or browse the web on their mobiles – whether they want to shop, problems for consumers and businesses wanting to reach people through their phones., stream music, or watch TV. We’re investigating whether this could create
“Our ongoing work into Digital Markets Unit, so we can hit the ground running by using the results of this work to shape plans.”has already uncovered some worrying trends, and we know consumers and businesses could be harmed if they go unchecked. That’s why we’re launching this study now while we are setting up the new
The European Union also unveiled its proposals for clipping big tech’s wings year — presenting its Digital Markets Act plan in December, which will apply a single set of operational rules to so-called “gatekeeper” platforms operating across the EU.
The clear trend in Europe on digital competition is toward increasing oversight and regulation of the largest platforms — hoping that antitrust authorities can impose measures to help smaller players thrive.
that’s just playing into the tech giants’ hands. However use, it’s fiddling around the edges when more radical interventions (breakups) are what’s really to reboot captured markets. were contacted for comment on the CMA’s market study.
A Google spokesperson said: “Android provides people choice than any other mobile platform in deciding which apps they use and enables thousands of developers and manufacturers to build successful businesses. We welcome the CMA’s efforts to understand the deplatform details and differences in designing new rules.”
According to Google, the Android App Economy generated £2.8BN in revenue for UK developers, which it claims supported 240,000 jobs across the country — citing a Public First report it commissioned. The tech giant also pointed to operational changes it has already made in Europe, following antitrust interventions by the European Commission — such as adding a choice screen to Android where users can pick from a list of alternative . Earlier this , it agreed to shift that choice screen’s format from an unpopular auction model to free participation.