The U.K.’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). The study will be wide-ranging, with the watchdog concerns about the nested gateways that are created as a result of the pair’s dominance of the 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). It added that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is concerned that the mobile platform giants’ “effective duopoly” in those areas might harm consumers.
“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, 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 developers who rely on Apple or Google to market their products to customers via their smart devices.
The watchdog already has an open investigation intofollowing several antitrust complaints by developers. It is also investigating after 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 new mobile ecosystem market study scope 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 for responses by 26 July. The CMA added that it’s also keen to hear from app developers via its questionnaire by the same date.
Taking on tech giants
The watchdog has previously scrutinized the digital advertising market — and found plenty to be concerned about vis-à-vis Google’s dominance there. Last year, the U.K. 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). That earlier market study has been feeding the U.K. government’s plan to reform competition rules to consider the market-deforming power of digital giants. The CMA suggested the new market study examining “Gapple’s” mobile muscle could similarly help shape U.K.-wide competition law reforms.
Thehas not yet been put before parliament. Still, the government has said it wants the competition regulator to be able to “proactively 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”.
Germany already adopted similar reforms to its competition law (early this year), which enable proactive interventions to tackle largewith what is described as “paramount significance for competition across markets”. AThe CMA also sounds keen to get going to tackle internet gatekeepers. And its Federal Cartel Office has wasted no time opening several proceedings to determine whether Amazon, Google, and Facebook have such a status. Commenting in a statement, CEO Andrea Coscelli said:
The European Union also unveiled its proposals for clipping the wings oflast 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.
Critics might. were contacted for comment on the CMA’s market study. A Google spokesperson said: “Android gives people more choice than any other they use and enables thousands of developers and manufacturers to build successful businesses. We welcome the CMA’s efforts to understand platform details and differences before designing new rules.”
According to Google, theEconomy generated £2.8 billion in revenue for U.K. developers last year, which it claims supported 240,000 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 . It agreed to shift that choice screen’s format from an unpopular auction model to free participation earlier this .