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The German competition regulator says Apple and its subsidiaries qualify for “extended abuse control”.

This week Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) announced that it plans to subject Apple and its subsidiaries to increased measures against anticompetitive behaviour.

Declaring that Apple is “an undertaking of paramount significance”, the German FCO said it plans to make extra efforts to ensure that the US tech giant complies with the German Competition Act (GWB). That law, which took effect in 2021, allows the FCO to ban corporations with a particular “market weight” from engaging in actions that undermine market competition.

The regulator has now determined that Apple has sufficient market dominance to warrant additional regulation.

Vertical control of the device supply chain

The German regulator states that Apple “holds a dominant, or at least powerful, position on all vertically related levels based on its smartphones, tablets and smart watches as well as proprietary operating systems”. The authority further notes that Apple controls its App Store, “the only digital distribution platform for apps and other software products available to both app publishers and users on Apple devices”.

Andreas Mundt, President of the FCO, explained the reasoning behind the agency’s actions. “Apple has an economic position of power across markets which gives rise to a scope of action that is not sufficiently controlled by competition”, he said.

“This decision enables us to specifically take action against and effectively prohibit anti-competitive practices”, Mundt added.

Apple plans to appeal the FCO’s decision, according to Reuters. “The [FCO’s] designation misrepresents the fierce competition Apple faces in Germany, and it discounts the value of a business model that puts user privacy and security at its core,” an Apple spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

This is not the first time that the US tech giant has run afoul of the German competition authority. Last year the FCO started investigating Apple’s tracking rules and its App Tracking Transparency Framework. A decision in that case is still pending, the FCO says.