British antitrust regulators launched a probe of Apple’s App Store Thursday after developers complained that the tech titan’s policies put them in a chokehold.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said it’s investigating concerns about the terms Apple forces on developers who want to distribute apps through the store, as well as complaints about the steep commission Apple charges for purchases made through iPhone and iPad apps.
The investigation will examine whether Apple has a “dominant position” in the UK’s app market and, if so, whether it imposes “unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers,” officials said.
“Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway,” Andrea Coscelli, the Competition and Markets Authority’s chief executive, said in a statement. “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.”
The probe adds to mounting scrutiny of the iron fist with which Apple runs its App Store.
The concerns were thrust into the spotlight last year when Epic Games, the company behind the popular video game “Fortnite,” sued Apple over the 30 percent cut it takes from in-app purchases. Apple pulled “Fortnite” from the App Store after Epic launched a payment system to get around the fees.
Epic’s lawsuit was supported by fellow tech giants such as Facebook, Match Group, and Spotify, which filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union last year.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it “continues to coordinate closely” with the EU’s European Commission, which has already opened three investigations into the App Store. British regulators noted that their probe is only in its early stages and has not reached a conclusion on whether Apple is breaking the law.
Apple said it would work with UK officials as they conduct their investigation. The Cupertino, California-based company has defended its App Store policies by saying they apply evenly to every developer who uses the platform.
“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,” Apple said in a statement Thursday.
Apple warned investors in its annual report last fall that its bottom line could take a hit if it’s forced to reduce its commissions on App Store sales.
Apple shares were trading down about 0.2 percent in premarket trading Thursday at $121.77 as of 7:44 a.m.
With Post Wires