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UK’s CMA opens market study into Apple, Google’s mobile “duopoly” – TechCrunch

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The UK’s competition watchdog will take a deep dive look into Apple and Google’s dominance of the mobile ecosystem, and it said today — announcing a market study which will examine the pair’s respective smartphone platforms (iOS and Android); their app stores (App Store and Play Store); and web browsers (Safari and Chrome). 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is concerned that the mobile platform giants’ “effective duopoly” in those areas might be harming consumers, it added.

The study will be wide-ranging, with the watchdog concerns about the nested gateways that are created as a result of the pair’s dominance of the mobile ecosystem — intermediating how consumers can access a variety of products, content, and services (such as music, TV and video streaming; fitness tracking, shopping, and banking, to cite some of the examples provided by the CMA).

“These products also include other technology and devices such as smart speakers, smartwatches, home security and lighting (which mobiles can connect to and control),” it went on, adding that it’s looking into whether their dominance of these pipes is “stifling competition across a range of digital markets”, saying too that it’s “concerned this could lead to reduced innovation across the sector and consumers paying higher prices for devices and apps, or other goods and services due to higher advertising prices”.

The CMA further confirmed the deep dive would examine “any effects” of the pair’s market power over other businesses — giving the example of app developers who rely on Apple or Google to market their products to customers via their smart devices.

The watchdog already has an open investigation into Apple’s App Store, following several antitrust complaints by developers. It is also investigating Google’s planned depreciation of third-party tracking cookies after adtech companies and publishers protest that the move could harm competition. (And just last week, the CMA said it was minded to accept a series of concessions offered by Google that would enable the regulator to stop it turning off support for cookies entirely if it believes the move will harm competition.)

The CMA said both those existing investigations are examining issues that fall within the scope of the new mobile ecosystem market study but that its work on the latter will be “much broader”. It added that it would adopt a joined-up approach across all related cases — “to ensure the best outcomes for consumers and other businesses”. It’s giving itself a whole year to examine Gapple’s mobile ecosystems.

It is also soliciting feedback on any issues raised in its statement of scope — calling for responses by 26 July. The CMA added that it’s also keen to hear from app developers, via its questionnaire, by the same date.

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Tristan McCue is a 26-year-old junior programmer who enjoys reading, binge-watching boxed sets, and appearing in the background on TV. He is smart and friendly, but can also be very evil and a bit lazy.He is an Australian Christian. He has a post-graduate degree in computing.
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