A new probe by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is set to examine whether Apple App Store policies are inhibiting app developers.
In a statement yesterday, the competition watchdog announced it will investigate whether Apple’s terms and conditions for app developers are anti-competitive.
The CMA also said the investigation will consider if Apple holds a dominant position with regard to the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK. The watchdog is concerned that the firm’s policies could result in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps.
Commenting on the investigation, CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway.
“So, complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice – potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps – warrant careful scrutiny.”
According to the watchdog, the investigation follows a series of complaints from developers alleging unfair practices by the tech giant, with Epic Games a notable critic of Apple’s policies.
Apps available through the Apple App Store must be approved by the tech giant, and approval often rests on developers agreeing to various terms and conditions.
Some developers have complained that these terms force them to only distribute their apps to iPhones and iPads via the App Store. Similarly, complaints have been made over the commission which Apple takes.
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Developers who offer ‘in-app’’ features, add-ons or upgrades are required to use Apple’s own payment system rather than an alternative. Additionally, Apple charges a commission of up to 30% – a policy which has raised concerns among high-profile developers.
In November 2020 Apple announced it will lower the commission it charges on a range of third-party apps.
Through the App Store Small Business Program, the company revealed it will reduce its commission from 30% to 15% for any developers that made under $1 million in revenue.
Responding to the CMA announcement, Apple said: “We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish.
“We look forward to working with the UK Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our guidelines for privacy, security and content have made the App Store a trusted marketplace for both consumers and developers.”
Apple’s App Store policies also brought the company to blows with Epic Games last year.
In August, the games developer was banned from the App Store after attempting to bypass the company’s policies and allow Fortnite players to buy virtual currency at a cheaper rate.
Epic Games was subsequently banned from both Apple and Google’s app stores over the issue, which sparked a damaging legal dispute.
Apple is currently the subject of four antitrust probes by the European Commission, all of which were launched before the UK’s Brexit transition period. These also include three open investigations into the App Store.
The CMA confirmed it “continues to coordinate closely” with the European Commission, as well as other pan-European agencies, amid the ongoing investigations.