The Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into Apple over claims that the tech giant is imposing “unfair and anti-competitive” terms on the developers of apps that feature on its App Store.
The watchdog announced that its own work in the digital sector prompted them to investigate the matter, “as well as several developers reporting that Apple’s terms and conditions are unfair and could break competition law”.
“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.”
Apple has a big hand in the terms that it sets for developers as its official App Store is the only way to install applications on Apple devices.
Developers are charged 15-30% of their revenue to sell their applications through the App Store, and are prevented from launching subscription-based services unless the subscription can only be purchased through Apple’s payment service.
Apple claims that these measures are necessary to ensure that apps are safe and secure for users.
“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for customers to download the apps they love and a great business opportunity for developers everywhere,” said Apple. “In the UK alone, the iOS app economy supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, and any developer with a great idea is able to reach Apple customers around the world.
“We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish. The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place – applied fairly and equally to all developers – to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent. We look forward to working with the UK Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our guidelines for privacy, security and content have made the App Store a trusted marketplace for both consumers and developers.”
The investigation is part of a wider CMA initiative to scrutinise the tech sector. This includes the creation of the Digital Markets Unit last November.
“Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends,” said Coscelli. “We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked. That’s why we’re pressing on with setting up the new Digital Markets Unit and launching new investigations wherever we have grounds to do so.”
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