U.K. antitrust group investigates Apple, Google mobile device policies

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is moving forward with an investigation it first proposed in June, looking into the market power that Apple and Google exert in mobile-device software.

“Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices,” stated the CMA today.

It said that 97% of all mobile web browsing in the U.K. in 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine.

The CMA will investigate how the companies control web browsers for mobile devices. It will also look into complaints that Apple restricts cloud gaming on its devices.

It said there are more than 800,000 users of cloud gaming services in the U.K., but restrictions on their distribution on mobile devices, particularly on the Apple App Store, hamper growth in the sector, “meaning U.K. gamers miss out.”

The CMA’s interim chief executive Sarah Cardell said U.K. businesses and web developers are being impacted by restrictions set by Apple and Google, so the CMA is going to tackle problems where it can.

After the CMA first proposed its investigation in June, both Apple and Google filed initial comments, which the CMA published this week.

Apple used a familiar argument — that its policies protect user’s privacy.

“Apple considers that a balanced review of the evidence would lead to the conclusion that competition with respect to both mobile browsers and cloud gaming is robust and that, in particular, Apple’s approach provides users with a valuable choice, centered on security, privacy and performance, between ecosystems,” stated Apple.

Google argued that the main concerns identified by the CMA were related to Apple’s iOS and do not arise on Google’s Android operating system.

“The CMA’s primary concerns in relation to mobile browser and cloud gaming competition appear to stem from Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines on iOS and its App Store restrictions on cloud gaming. These issues do not arise on Android,” wrote Google.