German cartel watchdog investigates whether Apple is abusing market position with App Store

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The German cartel watchdog Bundeskartellamt will investigate whether Apple has ‘significant market power’ and whether the company is abusing it. The research mainly revolves around the App Store. The Bundeskartellamt previously started these investigations into Google, among others.

First, the Bundeskartellamt will investigate whether Apple actually has that significant power within certain markets. In the case of Apple, this could be the smartphone, smarthome or smartwatch or software markets, for example. The question then is whether Apple has so much power within ecosystems that it is difficult to compete with it.

President of the Bundeskartellamt Andreas Mundt says the research mainly focuses on the App Store. This is how this app store works. The authority is doing this because with the store, Apple could have many ways to influence the business activities of third parties.

In the second step, the watchdog would investigate whether Apple is actually abusing that power. The authority says it has received several complaints about potentially anti-competitive behaviour. For example, ad and media companies complain about how Apple has limited tracking with iOS 14.5. There is also a complaint about Apple’s exclusive installation of certain software on Apple devices.

In addition, developers complain about the obligation to use Apple’s in-app payment system and pay thirty percent to Apple. These developers also complain about being restricted from advertising within Apple’s App Store. The European Commission is also investigating these complaints from the developers, following a previous, similar complaint from Spotify. The Bundeskartellamt therefore enters into discussions ‘where necessary’ with the EC and other competition authorities about these subjects.

The Bundeskartellamt starts the investigation because of a new German law that came into effect this year. This law should be able to impose restrictions more quickly on companies with significant market power. This concerns, for example, preventing its own products or services from being presented more attractively than those of competitors, or prohibiting the provision of exclusive, proprietary software and services on devices. The authority previously launched similar investigations into Google, Amazon and Facebook.

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