German regulator launches antitrust investigation into Apple

Germany’s antitrust watchdog has launched an investigation into whether Apple has entrenched its market dominance through its “digital ecosystem,” making it the fourth US tech giant to be targeted by the agency this year.

Using new competition laws for digital platforms enacted in January, the German federal cartel office launched an effective offensive this year against big tech companies. In the past few months, I’ve also launched investigations into Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

The regulator said Monday that it will look at whether Apple has exercised market dominance by integrating hardware products — from iPhones and computers to tablets and wearables — with digital services such as the App Store, iCloud or Apple Music.

The first step in the investigation will be to determine whether the company is “of paramount importance across markets”.

“An ecosystem that spans across different markets may be an indication that a company occupies such a position,” the agency said in a statement.

“Besides assessing the company’s position in these areas, we will, among other aspects, examine its overall integration across many levels of the market, the size of its technological and financial resources, and its access to data,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the authority. .

He said the main focus of the investigation would be the App Store, “because in many ways it enables Apple to influence the businesses of third parties.”

Based on its findings, the agency said it may then consider complaints brought by various groups for further action against the $2.2 trillion Silicon Valley company.

One such complaint comes from app developers against Apple’s pre-installation of its own apps, and its requirement that developers use its in-app purchase system, which takes a 30% commission.

The other comes from the advertising and media industry, which has complained about the limitations of the new iOS 14.5 on user tracking.

The cartel’s federal office said it would coordinate such investigations with the European Commission and other competition regulators. “So far, no decision has been taken about initiating further measures,” she said.

Apple said its “iOS app economy” supports more than 250,000 jobs in Germany, and that its app store has given “German developers of all sizes the same opportunity to share their passion and creativity with users around the world.” It added that Germany was home to Apple’s largest engineering hub in Europe and was looking forward to an “open dialogue” about any concerns with antitrust authorities.

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