On November 22, the CMA decided to launch an investigation in light of the results of a year-long mobile ecosystem study it completed earlier this year. The CMA noted at the time that Apple and Google acted as gatekeepers across operating systems, app stores, and web browsers. It highlighted concerns that other companies have expressed about their ability to offer competing services and innovate.
As part of its market investigation (21 pages / 251 KB PDF), the CMA will examine whether there are characteristics of the cloud gaming or mobile browser markets that are detrimental to competition.
Following the publication of its final market study report in June 2022, the CMA consulted stakeholders on whether to launch a market investigation, which requires a deeper examination of specific markets than a broader market study would require. Both Apple and Google were among the participants in this consultation.
Google said that a market investigation “could have a positive impact on the proliferation of mobile browsers and cloud gaming apps if there is reliable evidence of features that result in adverse competitive effects and if appropriate remedies are available.” However, it states that the “primary concerns about mobile browser and cloud gaming competition stem from Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines for iOS and its App Store restrictions on cloud gaming” and that these issues are not related occurrence of its Android operating system.
Google added that it imposes “no rules or restrictions on browsers running alternative browser engines” and claimed that the adoption of cloud gaming on Android is “much faster than on competing mobile platforms”.
For its part, Apple said it doesn’t restrict users’ ability to download and use alternative browser apps, nor does it prevent other browsers from being distinct from its Safari browser. It said it provides security and privacy features that appropriately limit the delivery of new browser features. Regarding cloud gaming, it does not prevent cloud gaming apps from appearing in its app store nor does it attempt to block the emergence of cloud gaming apps. It said it has “worked with developers to enable them to offer cloud gaming apps while maintaining adequate protections for consumers.”
Market investigations are generally required to be completed within 18 months, although in exceptional circumstances the CMA may extend its investigation for an additional six months. If the CMA’s investigation finds adverse competitive effects, it has the power to impose its own remedies on companies and to make recommendations to other bodies, such as sectoral regulators or the government, if it believes, for example, legislation is needed to address them problems it finds.
Sarah Cardell, interim managing director of the CMA, said: “We want to ensure that UK consumers get the best new mobile data services and that UK developers can invest in innovative new apps.”
“We plan to investigate whether the concerns we’ve heard are valid, and if so, to identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors,” she said.