Apple and Google mobile browser ‘throttling’ could face UK investigation | Competition and Markets Authority

The UK competition watchdog is considering launching an investigation into Apple and Google’s dominance in the mobile browser market after finding tech companies have a “bottleneck” in several areas, including app stores.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has indicated action is needed, saying that without intervention, both companies would likely tighten their grip on the sector, which would further constrain rivals and deter innovators.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of CMA, said the two companies’ dominance is constraining the UK’s tech sector and restricting consumer choice.

“When it comes to how people use cell phones, Apple and Google have all the cards,” he said. “As great as many of their services and products are, their tight grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to foreclose on competitors, holding back the UK tech sector and limiting choice.”

The CMA said it was looking to launch a market investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers following a year-long study of enterprise mobile ecosystems published Friday.

He said the study found that Apple and Google have an “effective duopoly” in mobile ecosystems that give them dominance over areas such as operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

The CMA said smartphones typically have Google’s Chrome or Apple’s Safari pre-installed as default browsers, with a combined market share of around 90% in the UK.

“Without interventions, both companies are likely to maintain and even strengthen their hold on the sector, further restricting competition and limiting incentives for innovators,” the watchdog said.

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It also accused Apple of blocking the emergence of cloud gaming – where video games are streamed rather than downloaded – on its app store and said it would also consult to launch an investigation into this.

In a statement, Apple said it believed in “thriving and competitive markets” and disagreed with several findings in the report that accompanied the CMA’s statement. He added: “We will continue to engage constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice while ensuring that consumers’ privacy and safety are always protected.”

Google said Android-powered phones and the Google Play app store provide consumers with choice and help developers launch global business. “Android phones give people and businesses more choice than any other mobile platform. Google Play has been the launch pad for millions of apps, helping developers build global businesses that support a quarter of a million jobs in the UK alone… We will review the report and continue to engage with the CMA.”

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