German watchdog begins anti-trust probe against Apple

London: Germany’s competition watchdog on Monday opened a probe into alleged anti-competition practices by Apple, especially via its App Store policies.

Apple has become the fourth US tech giant — after Amazon, Facebook and Google — to be hit by similar investigations on behalf of the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO).

The proceeding will determine whether or not the iPhone maker meets the threshold of Germany’s updated competition law.

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“We will now examine whether with its proprietary operating system iOS, Apple has created a digital ecosystem around its iPhone that extends across several markets,” Andreas Mundt, president of the FCO, said in a statement.

Apple produces tablets, computers and wearables and provides a host of device-related services.

In addition to manufacturing various hardware products, the tech company also offers the App Store, iCloud, AppleCare, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple TV+ as well as other services as part of its services business.

“Besides assessing the company’s position in these areas, we will, among other aspects, examine its extensive integration across several market levels, the magnitude of its technological and financial resources and its access to data,” he added.

A main focus of the investigations will be on the operation of the App Store as it enables Apple in many ways to influence the business activities of third parties.

The watchdog said it has received various complaints relating to potentially anti-competitive practices.

These include, among others, an association complaint from the advertising and media industry against Apple restricting user tracking with the introduction of its iOS 14.5 operating system.

The FCO has also received complaints against the “exclusive pre-installation of the company’s own applications as a possible type of self-preferencing”.

App developers also criticise the mandatory use of Apple’s own in-app purchase system (IAP) and the 30 percent commission rate associated with this.

Apple said in a statement that the App Store’s economic growth and activity have given German developers of all sizes the same opportunity to share their passion and creativity with users around the world “while creating a secure and trusted place for customers to download the apps they love with the privacy protections they expect”.

“We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority in March opened its own probe into Apple’s App Store.

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