Media & Entertainment

Apple’s App Store is now also under antitrust scrutiny in the UK

Comment

Apple App Store icon
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Apple is facing another antitrust investigation in Europe into how it operates the iOS App Store.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced today that it’s opened an investigation following a number of complaints from developers alleging unfair terms and as a result of its own work in the digital sector.

“The CMA’s investigation will consider whether Apple has a dominant position in connection with the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK — and, if so, whether Apple imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store, ultimately resulting in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps and add-ons,” it wrote in a press release.

“This is only the beginning of the investigation and no decision has yet been made on whether Apple is breaking the law,” it added.

In a statement, Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, also 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.”

An Apple spokesperson sent us this statement in response to the CMA action:

We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for customers to download the apps they love and a great business opportunity for developers everywhere. In the UK alone, the iOS app economy supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, and any developer with a great idea is able to reach Apple customers around the world.

We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish. The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place — applied fairly and equally to all developers — to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent. 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.

The European Union already has an open antitrust investigation into a number of elements of Apple’s business, following complaints in 2019 by music-streaming service Spotify — announcing a probe of the App Store and the iPhone maker’s payment offering, Apple Pay, last summer.

U.S. lawmakers have also been questioning Apple as part of a major antitrust probe into big tech. And a bill has just advanced in Arizona that aims to force both Apple and Google to allow third-party payment options in their smartphone stores.

The EU’s Apple investigation, meanwhile, remains ongoing. The video games publisher Epic Games — which has been engaged in a vicious public battle with Apple over what it decries as Cupertino’s unfair “tax” on developers — recently sought to join the EU’s case by filing a complaint with the European Commission last month.

Epic previously filed the same complaint in the U.K. — so it’s one of the unhappy developers the CMA cites.

Epic Games takes its Apple App Store fight to Europe

With the U.K. now outside the European Union, the CMA looks set to take on a more prominent role as a regional regulator. Post-Brexit, it’s free to investigate the same issues as the Commission (whereas under EU rules national regulators are supposed to avoid duplicating effort).

If it can move faster than the bloc’s competition commission it may have the opportunity to mould the standards that apply to tech giants. (Although the CMA said today that it “continues to coordinate closely” with the Commission and other agencies to tackle what it described as “global concerns”.)

Last fall the U.K. also announced a plan to establish a pro-competition regulation regime aimed at tackling the market power of big tech. That followed a major market study of online platforms and digital advertising carried out by the CMA — which published its advice to the government on shaping that regime in December.

“As the CMA works with the government on these proposals – which will complement its current enforcement powers – the CMA will continue to use its existing powers to their fullest extent in order to protect competition in these areas,” it said today.

“Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends,” Coscelli added. “We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked. That’s why we’re pressing on with setting up the new Digital Markets Unit and launching new investigations wherever we have grounds to do so.”

Uber’s Autocab acquisition gets eyed by UK competition watchdog

In other recent actions targeting tech giants, the CMA has opened an investigation into Google’s plan to phase out third-party tracking cookies — and launched an inquiry into Uber’s planned acquisition of U.K.-based SaaS maker Autocab.

In its final report into the online ad market last year, it concluded that the market power of Google and Facebook had become so great a new regulatory approach and a dedicated oversight body is needed to address what it summarized as “wide ranging and self reinforcing” concerns. The forthcoming Digital Markets Unit will form a key part of the U.K.’s planned regulatory response to big tech.

Apple Pay and iOS App Store under formal antitrust probe in Europe

Google’s plan to replace tracking cookies goes under UK antitrust probe

UK’s competition regulator asks for views on breaking up Google


Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

More TechCrunch

Scale AI, a company that provides data-labeling services for training machine learning models, has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors…

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B

The new coalition, Tech Against Scams, will work together to find ways to fight back against the tools used by scammers and to better educate the public against financial scams.

Meta, Match, Coinbase and others team up to fight online fraud and crypto scams

It’s a wrap: European Union lawmakers have given the final approval to set up the bloc’s flagship, risk-based regulations for artificial intelligence.

EU Council gives final nod to set up risk-based regulations for AI

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons