Competition regulators continue to cast their net towards Google and Apple, with a new in-depth investigation launched this morning over their mobile browser dominance.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would be examining whether new rules are needed for users and developers in this space after it conducted a consultation.
Around 97 per cent of all mobile web browsing in the UK happens on browsers powered by either Apple’s Safari or Google’s Chrome.
The watchdog said developers complained that Apple’s restrictions and supposed underinvestment caused additional costs, as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages.
Meanwhile, browser vendors said the status quo is harming businesses, holding back innovation, thereby adding unnecessary costs.
Apple and Google have both previously argued that restrictions are needed to protect users.
“Android gives people a greater choice of apps and app stores than any other mobile platform,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters.
“It also enables developers to choose the browser engine they want, and has been the launch pad for millions of apps. We’re committed to building thriving, open platforms that empower consumers and help developers build successful businesses.”
Competition partner at Addleshaw Godard Rona Bar-Isaac told City A.M. that the new investigation was another blow for US big tech, which is ever closer scrutiny in the UK and EU.
Just last week, the government said it would be pushing forward with the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, which provides the CMA with new powers to promote and tackle anticompetitive practices in digital markets via a new Digital Markets Unit (DMU).
“What’s particularly interesting about this case is that the CMA’s board has provided a steer on the market investigation—which is not common—asking staff not to, for example, focus too much on web compatibility issues,” Rona Bar-Isaac told City A.M.
She explained that the move reflects the practical risks of “scope creep”, as the watchdog continues with a live investigation into Apple’s conduct in relation to the distribution of apps on iOS and iPadOS devices in the UK, as well as open cases into Google’s ‘Privacy Sandbox’ browser changes, and ad tech.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.