Commission opens additional DMA investigation against Apple

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In a move that is likely to escalate tensions between the tech giant and European regulators, the European Commission has announced that it is opening an additional investigation into Apple’s business practices under the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

This new investigation comes on the heels of an existing probe into Apple’s App Store rules, which was launched in June 2022. The Commission is now broadening its scope to examine whether Apple’s conduct in the market for mobile devices and operating systems is in breach of the DMA’s rules.

The DMA, which came into effect in November 2022, is a landmark piece of legislation aimed at regulating the behavior of large digital platforms. It sets out a series of dos and don’ts for companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, which are deemed to be “gatekeepers” of the digital economy.

Under the DMA, gatekeepers are prohibited from engaging in certain practices that could harm competition or exploit their market power. These include self-preferencing, where a company gives its own products or services an unfair advantage over those of its rivals, as well as restrictions on interoperability and data sharing.

The Commission’s investigation will focus on Apple’s iOS operating system and its App Store, which are used by millions of consumers across the EU. Specifically, regulators will examine whether Apple’s rules and practices are unfairly restricting competition in the market for mobile devices and operating systems.

One area of particular concern is Apple’s policy of requiring app developers to use its in-app payment system, which takes a commission of up to 30% on transactions. This has been criticized by some developers, who argue that it is an unfair and anti-competitive practice.

The Commission will also investigate Apple’s restrictions on sideloading, which is the practice of installing apps on a device from outside the App Store. Apple has long maintained that sideloading poses a security risk, but critics argue that this is a pretext for maintaining its control over the app ecosystem.

The opening of this new investigation is a significant development in the ongoing battle between Apple and European regulators. The company has faced intense scrutiny in recent years over its business practices, including a major antitrust case in the EU that was settled in 2020.

Apple has consistently maintained that its practices are fair and pro-competitive, and that it is committed to complying with EU law. However, the Commission’s decision to launch a new investigation suggests that regulators remain unconvinced by the company’s arguments.

The outcome of this investigation could have significant implications for Apple’s business model and its relationships with app developers and consumers. If the Commission finds that Apple has breached the DMA’s rules, it could face fines of up to 10% of its global turnover, as well as being required to change its business practices.

As the investigation gets underway, all eyes will be on the Commission and Apple to see how this latest chapter in their ongoing saga plays out. One thing is certain: the stakes are high, and the outcome could have far-reaching consequences for the digital economy in Europe and beyond.

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