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UK regulator to probe Apple over suspected anti-competitive behaviour

The UK Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into Apple over suspected anti-competitive behavior. 

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into Apple over suspected anti-competitive behavior. 

The watchdog said it has received complaints concerning Apple's "unfair and anti-competitive" terms and conditions for app developers, including the 30 percent platform fees charged by the company.

The probe will consider whether Apple has a dominant position in connection with the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK, and if so, whether the iPhone maker imposes unfair terms on creators using the App Store that result in users having less choice or paying more for apps and add-ons. 

"All apps available through the App Store have to be approved by Apple, with this approval hinging on developers agreeing to certain terms. The complaints from developers focus on the terms that mean they can only distribute their apps to iPhones and iPads via the App Store," said the CMA in a statement.

"These complaints also highlight that certain developers who offer 'in-app' features, add-ons or upgrades are required to use Apple’s payment system, rather than an alternative system. Apple charges a commission of up to 30 percent to developers on the value of these transactions or any time a consumer buys their app."

The CMA stressed its investigation has only just begun, and that no decision has been reached on whether Apple is breaking the law. Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the organization, said the complaints against Apple "warrant carefully scrutiny," and noted the probe has also been prompted by the CMA's own work in the digital sector.

"Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends. We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked," commented Coscelli. "That’s why we’re pressing on with setting up the new Digital Markets Unit and launching new investigations wherever we have grounds to do so."

The news arrives as Apple and Epic prepare to duke it out over the removal of Fortnite from the App Store. Apple pulled the popular shooter from its platforms last year after Epic attempted to circumvent those 30 percent platform fees. That move sparked a heated legal battle that will head to trial on May 3, 2021, with Epic initially suing Apple to end what it called "unfair and anti-competitive actions" and the "Apple monopoly."

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