The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) posted a press release announcing its plans for a market investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming. According to the CMA: Apple and Google “hold all the cards” with interventions needed to give innovators and competitors a fair chance to compete in mobile ecosystems.
More specifically, the CMA is consulting on the launch of a market investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store. In parallel, it is also taking enforcement action against Google in relation to its app store payment practices.
Previous to this press release, the CMA held a year-long study of the companies’ mobile ecosystems. The final report was published on June 10, 2022. The study found that Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to excise a stranglehold over these markets, which include operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive 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 British tech sector and limiting choice.”
“We all rely on browsers to use the internet on our phones, and the engines that make them work have a huge bearing on what we can see or do. Right now, choice in this space is severely limited and that has real world impacts – preventing innovation and reducing competition from web apps. We need to give innovative tech firms, may of which are ambitious start-ups, a fair chance to compete.”
“We have always been clear that we will maximize the use of our current tools while we await legislation for the new digital regime. Today’s announcements – alongside the 8 cases currently open against major players in the tech industry, ranging from tackling fake reviews to addressing problems in online advertising – are proof of that in action.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the CMA also announced a traditional competition investigation – which could lead to fines – into conditions Google places on in-app payments in its mobile store. That probe is similar to one the regulator opened into Apple’s App Store last year.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple said that it disagrees with some of the CMA’s conclusions and that it aims to work with the British regulator “to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are protected.” Google said that it has “reacted quickly to CMA feedback in the past” and would continue to engage with the regulator.
Once again, it appears that big companies like Apple and Google are playing a game. How much can they get away with – and still avoid facing serious consequences – from the regulators of various countries? It seems to me it would be a lot easier for those companies to just comply with various regulators than to fight them.