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Their market dominance may be impeding developers and businesses, the government said.

Britain’s antitrust watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), announced a market investigation into cloud gaming and mobile browsers, specifically targeting dominant tech giants Apple and Google.

The CMA had originally announced their intentions in June, claiming the two had an “effective duopoly” on mobile ecosystems that gave them a stranglehold on operating systems, app stores and web browsers. Apple and Google “hold all the cards”, the CMA observed, saying that interventions were needed to “give innovators and competitors a fair chance to compete in mobile ecosystems”.

According to the CMA, the responses to its June consultation revealed “substantial support” for a more extensive investigation into the way that Apple and Google operate in the mobile browser market. They also call for a study on how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store. The CMA said many of the responses came from browser vendors, web developers and cloud gaming service providers who say that the status quo is harming their businesses, holding back innovation and adding unnecessary costs.

Restrictions and underinvestment

“Web developers have complained that Apple’s restrictions, combined with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to added costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages”, the CMA said. They added that developers have no choice but to create bespoke mobile apps while websites could be sufficient.

The CMA’s market investigation will consider these concerns and review whether new rules are needed to drive better outcomes. While such an investigation doesn’t necessarily have to lead to fines, it can result in changes to companies’ behaviour and restrictions, the CMA said. That, in turn, will “improve competition and lead to greater choice for consumers and better-quality products”.

Sarah Cardell, interim Chief Executive of the CMA, summed up the reason behind the action. “Many UK businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google”, she said. “When the new Digital Markets regime is in place, it’s likely to address these sorts of issues.”

“We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors.” This is not the first time that Apple and Google have come onto the CMA’s radar. In 2021, the watchdog investigated the market influence of the two companies, citing their “vice-like grip over mobile devices”.