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France’s antitrust watchdog is responding to complaints about Apple’s app tracking policy changes.

The French governmental antitrust agency is about to proceed with an investigation into Apple over complaints tied to changes that the US tech giant made in 2021 to its app tracking policies, according to an exclusive report filed by Axios.

The French investigation would mark the first major government move taken globally against Apple related to privacy rule changes the iPhone maker introduced two years ago – to the consternation of its Big Tech competitors as well as small businesses.

Those changes made it easier for iPhone users to opt out of being tracked across other apps on their phones. But the changes also resulted in costing Apple’s rivals – such as Meta – billions of dollars in ad revenues, even while Apple’s ad business has continued to grow.

Apple has said that the changes are designed to protect users’ privacy, but competitors allege that Apple has leveraged the changes to boost its own ad business.

Ad industry groups filed the complaint

The 2020 complaint that may trigger the French regulator’s action argues that Apple’s app tracking changes did not adhere to European Union privacy rules (GDPR). The complaint also accuses Apple of failing to follow the same ad targeting standards that it forced on its competitors because it targeted iOS users with ads from app tracking data.

The complaint was filed jointly by four French advertising trade groups —IAB France, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), SRI and UDECAM.

The French Competition Authority has been looking into this matter since 2021. At the time, the watchdog said that the company’s changes do “not appear to reflect an abuse of a dominant position on the part of Apple”.

However, the regulator kept its options open, saying that while it would not issue urgent interim measures against Apple, it would nonetheless continue investigating the matter.

Both Apple and the French Competition Authority declined to comment.