Apple and Google criticized as a “duopoly” with a “vice-like grip” by U.K. competition authority
A probe conducted earlier this year by the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concerned the CMA that Apple and Google represent a duopoly. The CMA says that Apple and Google have “too much control” over operating systems, app stores, and web browsers that together form their ecosystems. This comes following both Apple and Google being fined by the Italian competition authority for “aggressive practices” in data usage.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA in the CMA’s report referred to the “vice-like grip” that Apple and Google have over mobile devices. “Most people know that Apple and Google are the main players when it comes to choosing a phone. But it can be easy to forget that they set all the rules too – from determining which apps are available on their app stores, to making it difficult for us to switch to alternative browsers on our phones,” she said.
“This control can limit innovation and choice, and lead to higher prices – none of which is good news for users. Any intervention must tackle the firms’ substantial market power across the key areas of operating systems, app stores and browsers. We think that the best way to do this is through the Digital Markets Unit when it receives powers from government.”
The CMA has provisionally found that Apple and Google “have been able to leverage their market power to create largely self-contained ecosystems.” Furthermore, it alleges that the duopoly of both companies prevents any other firm from entering the market. It specifically criticizes Apple for not allowing for alternative app stores and criticizes the contracts that Google has with manufacturers to pre-load the Google Play Store and Google Chrome on Android smartphones.
The report sets out a range of actions that could be taken to address these issues, including:
- Making it easier for users to switch between iOS and Android phones when they want to replace their device without losing functionality or data.
- Making it easier to install apps through methods other than the App Store or Play Store, including so-called “web apps”.
- Enabling all apps to give users a choice of how they pay in-app for things like game credits or subscriptions, rather than being tied to Apple’s and Google’s payment systems.
- Making it easier for users to choose alternatives to Apple and Google for services like browsers, in particular by making sure they can easily set which browser they have as default
The CMA is consulting on its initial findings and welcomes official responses from both companies by 7 February 2022. It will be continuing with the second half of the study and expects to issue a final report in June 2022.