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UK Watchdog Investigates Google & Apple Over ‘Effective Duopoly’

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has started to investigate Google and Apple so-called “duopoly” in the market, Engadget reports.

According to the latest report by the UK government, the CMA wants to launch a probe into Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming. Also, the Play Store payment practices that force developers to use Google’s in-built payment system will be investigated.

The CMA says it has spent years researching the two companies’ mobile ecosystems and has concluded that they have created an effective duopoly.

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“When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards. As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice.” Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said.

Mobile browsers, cloud gaming, and payment systems are the main areas for CMA investigation

The UK watchdog says Google and Apple’s duopoly will allow them to exercise a stranglehold over their markets. For example, almost 97 percent of mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 was through Google Chrome or Apple Safari. These apps come as pre-installed on Android or iOS devices. So they have a key advantage from the beginning, while users might find it difficult to install alternatives. The CMA says the limitations imposed by Apple can hinder the competition and limit the company’s incentives to invest in its browser engine.

The CMA also wants to investigate the ban of cloud gaming apps on the App Store. Apple currently prevents cloud gaming developers to submit their games and make them available to download freely. Some UK businesses and start-ups told CMA that such restrictions by Apple are an obstacle to innovation and competition.

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Finally, the CMA will investigate Google’s in-app purchase practices for certain digital products. Google requires developers to use the Play Store payment system and charges hefty fees for each purchase. This can reduce the developer’s revenue. Some companies and developers even sued Google for its payment mandates.

The CMA believes such actions by Google and Apple can further restrict competition and limit innovators’ incentives.