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UK watchdog to investigate Apple and Google's mobile 'duopoly'

The Competition and Markets Authority will examine whether the tech giant's dominance stifles competition and reduces innovation

The UK's competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Apple and Google’s dominance of the mobile ecosystem, which it believes could be stifling competition across a range of digital markets.

The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed it will examine the tech giant's respective smartphone platforms (iOS and Android), app stores (App Store and Play Store), and web browsers (Safari and Chrome).

Specifically, the watchdog will look at whether this "effective duopoly" reduces innovation across the sector and leads to consumers paying higher prices for devices and apps, or for other goods and services due to higher advertising prices.

The probe will also examine any effects of the firms’ market power over other businesses – such as app developers – which rely on Apple or Google to market their products to customers via their stores.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA said: “Apple and Google control the major gateways through which people download apps or browse the web on their mobiles – whether they want to shop, play games, stream music or watch TV. We’re looking into whether this could be creating problems for consumers and the businesses that want to reach people through their phones.

“Our ongoing work into big tech has already uncovered some worrying trends and we know consumers and businesses could be harmed if they go unchecked. That’s why we’re pressing on with launching this study now, while we are setting up the new Digital Markets Unit, so we can hit the ground running by using the results of this work to shape future plans.”

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The CMA is seeking views from the industry by 26 July and said it is keen to hear from app developers in particular.

Apple and Google have yet to return IT Pro's request for comment.

The watchdog already has an open investigation into Apple’s App Store, following a number of antitrust complaints by developers, and it's also investigating Google’s proposal to remove third-party tracking cookies after adtech companies and publishers warned that the move could harm competition.

The CMA said both those existing investigations are examining issues that fall within the scope of the new mobile ecosystem market study but added that its work on the latter will be “much broader”.

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