UK opens antitrust probe into Apple’s App Store policies

The CMA said it acted after receiving complaints from developers.

Mason Trinca / Reuters

Apple is facing yet more pushback in Europe over its iOS App Store policies for developers. The UK's competition regulator has launched an antitrust investigation into the iPhone maker for alleged anti-competitive behavior. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it acted after receiving several complaints from developers decrying Apple's "unfair" terms and conditions. It will now consider Apple's App Store rules that see it approving which apps make the cut and that force developers to use its own payment and in-app purchase systems.

"Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway," said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA. "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."

In its response, Apple said it would work alongside the CMA "to explain how our guidelines for privacy, security and content have made the App Store a trusted marketplace for both consumers and developers.” It added that its rules are applied fairly across the board to all developers as a means of protecting customers from malware and apps that collect data without consent.

The latest action ramps up the regulatory pressure Apple is facing in Europe. It follows the European Commission's launch of separate antitrust investigations into the App Store and Apple Pay. In a bid to mitigate the issue, Apple recently halved its App Store fees to 15 percent for developers that earn up to $1 million a year, with the standard 30 percent charge still reserved for bigger app makers.

Alongside the regulatory hurdles, Apple is also facing a growing backlash from within the tech industry over its payments stance. Fortnite maker Epic Games has filed a slew of complaints with global regulators, including in the UK, over Apple's approach to in-app purchases. A US judge recently sided with Epic by ordering iOS and MacOS chief Craig Federighi to testify alongside CEO Tim Cook as part of the game studio's ongoing lawsuit against Apple. Other notable names such as Facebook have also come out against Apple's position.