After an extensive investigation initiated in June 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the British agency responsible for market competition, published a report on the “ duopoly exercised by Apple and Google in the software sector for smartphones. Several market surveys should result from this.
A stranglehold on mobile ecosystems
According to the CMA, Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to control these markets, which include operating systems, application stores and web browsers on mobile devices. “. The regulator believes that it does not act, the two technological giants will further strengthen their hold in these different areas. In a press release, Andrea Coscelli, Director General of the CMA, said:
“When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards. As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the UK tech sector and limiting choice.
We all use browsers to use the internet on our phones, and the engines that run them have a huge influence on what we can see and do. Currently, the choice in this area is very limited, which has real consequences: it prevents innovation and reduces web application competition. We need to give innovative tech companies, many of which are ambitious start-ups, a fair chance to compete.”
Monopoly in the mobile web browser sector
The CMA has identified several areas where action is imperative; the first is that of Internet browsers. ” 97% of mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 is on browsers using Apple’s or Google’s browser engine “, explains the agency. However, Apple prohibits alternatives to its own browser engine on its mobile devices, which limits the possibility for competing browsers to differentiate themselves from Safari.
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The agency further explains that Google Chrome and Safari are directly pre-installed on almost all smartphones, which is a possible anti-competitive practice. Otherwise, ” this restriction restricts the capabilities of web applications – applications that run on a browser instead of having to be downloaded individually – thereby depriving consumers and businesses of all the benefits of this innovative technology “.
The CMA should therefore launch a market survey on the field of web browsers on smartphones.
Smartphone cloud gaming targeted
She also plans to do so in the cloud gaming sector, in particular because she believes that Apple is increasing its efforts to prevent this area from growing on smartphones, by blocking the emergence of cloud gaming services on the App Store. . According to the CMA, gaming apps are a key source of revenue for Apple and cloud gaming services could pose a real threat to its dominant position in app distribution.
The agency spoke with several British companies who expressed their concerns about the restrictions put in place by the apple brand. Through its investigation, it hopes to further assess the competition issues identified to date and decide what action to take. Finally, the CMA will also investigate the in-app payments set up by the Mountain View firm in relation to digital goods.
Increasingly common antitrust investigations
Unsurprisingly, the two giants of Silicon Valley remain on their positions: their application stores and operating systems allow better competition and security for users. Thus, Apple stated that it does not agree with some of the CMA’s conclusions and that it intends to work with the British regulator ” to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring that consumer privacy and security are always protected “. For its part, Google explained that it had ” reacted quickly to comments from the CMA in the past and ensures continue to operate with the regulator.
As a reminder, market investigations can lead to injunctions to modify practices, but not to fines. These latest announcements from the British government are part of a much stricter regulation of technology giants, which are increasingly targeted by the authorities. This is particularly the case across the Atlantic but especially in Europe, where the legislation will be greatly strengthened thanks to the Digital Markets Act.