Apple and Google’s market share in operating systems, app stores and web browsers is too great in the United Kingdom. That’s what the national market authority implies following a new investigation.
“A vice-like grip over mobile devices”, says the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about the position of the tech giants. Earlier this year, the authority launched an investigation into the influence of Apple and Google on UK markets for operating systems, app stores and web browsers. The results underline that the organizations dominate.
Every smartphone runs on Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. 95 percent of all smartphone apps were downloaded from the App Store or Play Store. 90 percent of browser traffic ran through Safari and Chrome.
“Anyone who buys a mobile device essentially enters either Apple’s or Google’s ecosystem up in Apple’s or Google’s ecosystem. As a result, Apple and Google are able to control how online content is provided to users”, states a spokesperson for the CMA. The authority finds it worrying. It states that residents of the United Kingdom could be at risk of unfairly high prices for phones and apps. Space for innovations from other providers is lacking.
While the investigation influences UK policymakers and governors, its direct impact is limited. The CMA has the right to impose sanctions on companies and individuals that violate competition laws. Apple and Google are not in violation. Thus, the CMA is hoping to broaden the criteria for infringement.
The perfect platform, the authority says, is a bill currently in consideration by the British government. If the government accredits this bill, the CMA receives the ability to move certain technology companies to a new legal category. Through the category, it becomes possible to direct certain business activities with new laws. The CMA is crystal clear on its intention to place Google and Apple in the proposed category. From there, its advice can be expressed in regulation.
Google and Apple could be legally obliged to facilitate the transition from iOS to Android (and vice versa). The CMA also recommends that organizations be required to facilitate the installation of apps outside the App Store and Play Store. In addition, Google and Apple may be forced to offer more payment options and browsers.
‘May’ is the keyword. As long as the bill remains a proposal, Google and Apple will proceed as usual. Only time will tell if the UK government increases its influence in the market. For now, recent events underscore nothing more than growing attention to the issue.
Tip: EU countries hope to find common ground to limit powers of tech giants