UK regulator will examine Google and Apple’s ‘effective duopoly’ in mobile

The study will examine if having just two players is stifling competition and raising prices.

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BARGTEHEIDE, GERMANY - MAY 03: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT)  In this photo illustration, a Google App in the IOS App Store on May 03, 2021 in Bargteheide, Germany. (Photo by Katja Knupper/Die Fotowerft/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has announced that it will take a “closer look” at the “effective duopoly” held by Google and Apple in the mobile world. It said that the pair’s control of operating systems, app stores and web browsers may result in “consumers losing out.” The CMA added that it is concerned that this control could “lead to reduced innovation” or see “customers paying higher prices for devices and apps.”

Unlike the formal work that the CMA has been doing with Google and Apple in recent months, this is for now just a study. In a statement, chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said that while the country’s new tech regulator — the Digital Markets Unit — is still being set up, investigations like this will help inform “future plans.” It added that this study will cover some of the same ground as those other projects to help build a “joined-up approach across all these related cases.”

Documents published at the same time explain that the work has the ultimate aim of assessing if “the markets within its scope are working well and in the interests of consumers.” This will include creating a rulebook for the Digital Markets Unit when it begins operations and promoting global regulatory alignment. It will also investigate network effects, consumer behavior and the power of default apps in informing consumer choice when buying phones.

The study has an initial period of 12 months and the CMA is accepting submissions from interested parties for the next month. It added that it is particularly interested in the opinions of app developers and their experience of developing for one or both of the systems in question.

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