Apple and Google’s dominance of mobile browsers is prompting a UK regulator to launch an investigation into how it can stop the companies’ alleged “duopoly” in the market.
“Without interventions, both companies are likely to maintain and even strengthen their grip on the sector, further limiting competition and reducing incentives for innovators,” according to the UK Competition and Market Authority (CMA).(Opens in a new window) on Friday.
The supervisor starts the investigation after it has completed an investigation(Opens in a new window) on the mobile ecosystem. The study concluded that both Apple and Google have “a stranglehold” on the software available on the iOS and Android operating systems, which can make it difficult for rival companies to compete or stand out. For example, Apple requires all mobile browsers on iOS to use the company’s WebKit engine, the CMA noted.
“Many companies have expressed frustrations with us,” the study added. “Tens of thousands of UK companies, such as app and web developers, who rely on these ecosystems to serve their customers, are faced with constraints and conditions that they cannot but accept.”
The CMA acknowledged that both Apple’s Safari browser and Google Chrome have also been favorably received by consumers. Nevertheless, Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the regulator said: “As good as many of their services and products are, their strong hold on mobile ecosystems allows them to lock out competitors, holding back the UK tech sector and limiting choice.”
To take action, the CMA plans to launch a formal market investigation into Apple and Google’s dominance in the browser market. If the investigation finds that both browsers have an “adverse effect on competition”, the CMA could impose remedies on Apple and Google or recommend the UK government to introduce certain legislation.
The regulator added: “The CMA has extensive powers to change the behavior of companies, such as regulating the way a product is sold in a particular market and the information available to customers who purchase that product. The CMA also has the power to impose structural remedies that could oblige companies to sell parts of their business to improve competition.”
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In addition, the study will examine Apple’s limitations around cloud gaming for the iOS App Store, which have prevented companies from offering game streaming. That’s because current rules prohibit the provision of multiple cloud-based games under one app.
However, Apple and Google told(Opens in a new window) Reuters object to CMA’s claims that both companies unfairly undermined third-party developers. “We respectfully disagree with a number of conclusions in the report, which weaken our investments in innovation, privacy and user performance — all of which contribute to why users love iPhone and iPad and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a trusted platform,” said an Apple spokesperson. Nevertheless, both companies plan to work with the British regulator.
The CMA is currently “consulting” on the planned market research. Once the investigation begins, the CMA must complete the procedure within 18 months, although the time limit can be extended for an additional six months.
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