Germany’s Bundeskartellamt announced today that Apple is subject to “extended abuse controls” under German competition law, meaning German regulators can prevent the company from engaging in “anti-competitive practices”.
Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt said that Apple’s economic position is not sufficiently controlled by competition, which gives the German authorities the right to intervene.
Apple has a cross-market economic power position, which entails an insufficiently competitively controlled room for manoeuvre. Based on its mobile devices such as the iPhone, Apple operates a far-reaching digital ecosystem that is of great importance for competition not only in Germany, but throughout Europe and the world. With its proprietary products iOS and the App Store, Apple holds a key position in terms of competition and access to the ecosystem and Apple customers. This decision enables us to take targeted action against anti-competitive practices and to effectively prevent them.
In the press release, the Bundeskartellamt says that Apple’s two billion active device install base gives it “strong power” to create rules for third parties, with Apple exercising control over customers and access to customers. Combined with Apple’s resources, Apple is in a “position of power” that subjects it to the “special abuse controls” mentioned above. This designation is valid for five years.
German regulators are already examining Apple’s ad-tracking rules and app-tracking transparency, a measure that requires apps to get users’ explicit consent before tracking them. The investigation began in 2022 to determine whether Apple’s anti-tracking technology is anti-competitive.
The Federal Cartel Office has not yet decided whether further proceedings will be initiated against Apple. Alphabet/Google, Meta/Facebook and Amazon were previously subject to these rules. A 2021 amendment to Germany’s competition law gave the Bundeskartellamt the power to “intervene earlier and more effectively” to prevent large tech companies from engaging in anti-competitive practices.
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