Germany Launches Antitrust Probe Into Apple
By Mauro Orru
Germany's Federal Cartel Office has opened a probe into Apple
Inc. to gauge the iPhone maker's influence on cross-market
competition, the latest development as tech giants come under
growing scrutiny in Europe on antitrust and privacy grounds.
The cartel office said Monday that it would look at whether
Apple's mobile operating system iOS created an ecosystem around its
iPhone that extends across several markets, potentially making it
difficult for other companies to challenge the tech giant.
The probe will also focus on the magnitude of Apple's
technological and financial resources, access to data as well as
its App Store, which enables the company "in many ways to influence
the business activities of third parties," Cartel Office President
Andreas Mundt said.
"An ecosystem which extends across various markets may be an
indication that a company holds such a position. It is often very
difficult for other companies to challenge such a position of
power," the office said in a statement.
An Apple spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the
company is ready to discuss its approach with the cartel office and
to have an open dialogue about any concerns.
The probe comes after an amendment to German competition
legislation came into force in January, with a new provision
enabling the cartel office to take action in a speedier fashion
against large tech companies.
Apple is the fourth tech giant against which the cartel office
is taking action, after launching similar probes against Alphabet
Inc.'s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. earlier this
The office has the power to prohibit companies that are of
"paramount significance" for cross-market competition from engaging
in anti-competitive practices in a two-step procedure.
The Apple probe stems from complaints the cartel office has
received on potentially anti-competitive practices, including from
the advertising and media industry against Apple's iOS 14.5 mobile
software update that lets users prevent apps from tracking their
activity and sharing it with other apps or websites.
The office also received complaints against the exclusive
pre-installation of Apple's own applications as possible
self-preferencing, while app developers criticized the mandatory
use of Apple's in-app purchase system and the associated commission
of up to 30% which Apple takes.
The cartel office said there could be a further proceeding to
probe Apple's specific practices in more detail.
Apple is currently facing charges from the European Union for
allegedly abusing its control over the distribution of
music-streaming apps by requiring rival apps to use Apple's in-app
payments system to sell digital content. The case stems from a
complaint by Spotify Technology SA.
Germany's cartel office said it would make "contact with the
European Commission and other competition authorities in this
regard. So far, no decision on initiating a further proceeding has
Write to Mauro Orru at firstname.lastname@example.org; @MauroOrru94
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 21, 2021 06:59 ET (10:59 GMT)
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