Apple and Google “hold all the cards” in the mobile ecosystem market, the CMA asserts

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has released its final report on a comprehensive, year-long mobile ecosystem market research that reinforces the view that there are significant concerns about Apple and Google’s market power that require regulatory action.

The CMA’s 356-page final report found that Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over these markets, which include operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

The report goes into greater depth and detail about almost all subjects from Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy to Apple and Google’s requiring app developers to use their own payment systems, from Google’s initiative targeting major game developers named Project Hug to Apple and Google’s in-app purchase rules.

The CMA said in a press release about the report that Apple and Google “hold all the cards” with interventions needed to give innovators and competitors a fair chance to compete in mobile ecosystems.

Following the study, the CMA said it is now consulting on the launch of a market investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store. 

The CMA notes that mobile devices often have Google’s Chrome or Apple’s Safari pre-installed and set by default at time of purchase – “giving them a key advantage over other rival browsers”.

On cloud gaming, the CMA says Apple has also blocked the emergence of cloud gaming services on its App Store and it risks causing mobile users to miss out on the full benefits of cloud gaming. The CMA says Gaming apps are a key source of revenue for Apple and cloud gaming could pose a real threat to Apple’s strong position in app distribution. 

The CMA is also taking enforcement action against Google in relation to its app store payment practices, , in particular regarding conditions Google sets for how users can make in-app payments for certain digital products. Separately, the CMA has an existing competition law investigation underway in relation to Apple’s App Store terms and conditions, which it opened in March 2021.

The consultation on the proposed MIR will close on 22 July at 5pm.

Written by Sophie Blake

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