Following the U.S antitrust investigation into Apple announced in 2019, other investigations are growing in Europe.
The European Commission opened formal antitrust investigations in 2020 to assess whether Apple’s rules for app developers and how they distribute their apps over the App Store violates EU competition rules. At the core of this probe is whether Apple’s rules on in-app purchases is operating against the interests of users and developers. In this case, Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of EU competition policy stated:
“Mobile applications have fundamentally changed the way we access content. Apple sets the rules for the distribution of apps to users of iPhones and iPads. It appears that Apple obtained a “gatekeeper” role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices. We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books. I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s App Store rules and their compliance with EU competition rules”
Earlier this month, the UK’s Commission and Markets Authority (CMA) launched its investigation into Apple’s App Store practices. Essentially, the CMA will consider whether,
“Apple has a dominant position in connection with the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK – and, if so, whether Apple imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store, ultimately resulting in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps and add-ons.”
Commenting on the latest investigation, Matthew Hunt from the legal advisors, Bristows, commented:
“Investigations like these will have an important impact on the future development of services like the App Store and the use of apps more generally. If any of the investigations conclude that Apple has infringed competition law, remedies could range from a reduction in the fees charged to developers to the establishment of rival app stores.”