Britain’s CMA wins appeal against a ruling blocking its Apple investigation

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Britain’s antitrust regulator won an appeal on Thursday against a ruling blocking its investigation into Apple’s mobile browser and cloud gaming services, reports Reuters.

Last year a study by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that Apple and Google’s duopoly means they have a stranglehold over these key gateways. From the 2022 CMA announcement: Apple and Google have a tight grip over these increasingly crucial ecosystems – putting them in a powerful position. Both companies unilaterally determine the ‘rules of the game’, making it difficult for rival businesses such as browsers or alternative app stores to compete. Many companies have raised frustrations with us. We found greater concerns with respect to Apple (as it imposes more direct restrictions), although Google also holds significant power.

Apple and Google’s stewardship has helped bring benefits for people and businesses, such as substantial investment and popular trusted products. But there are also significant downsides, even if they are not always immediately obvious to people. Tens of thousands of UK businesses such as app and web developers, which rely on these ecosystems to serve their customers, face restrictions and terms that they have little choice but to accept. Consumers are likely to miss out on new innovations, have less choice, and ultimately face higher prices. Both Apple and Google are making substantial and growing profits – unabated for over a decade. This matters not only for people and businesses, but for the UK’s wider digital economy including tech start-ups struggling to get a foothold.

The CMA said it was acting to tackle concerns where possible using our existing powers, as part of a wide portfolio of digital cases already underway. The government department says it will:

• Consult on a market investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming – both of which involve restrictions holding back potentially disruptive innovation;

  • Take further enforcement action including opening a new investigation into Google’s app store payment practices, alongside a similar investigation into Apple.

The CMA is a non-ministerial government department in the UK that’s responsible for strengthening business competition and preventing and reducing anti-competitive activities. 

However, lawyers representing Apple said in a January notice filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal that the CMA’s investigation should be reviewed. In its argument, lawyers said that the CMA had missed timing requirements linked to the launch of an investigation.

“Apple seeks 1) an Order that the MIR Decision is quashed. 2) a declaration that the MIR Decision and market investigation purportedly launched by reference to it are invalid and of no legal effect,” the filing with the Appeal Tribunal showed.

Apple argued that the CMA had “no power” to launch such an inquiry because it did so too late and the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) ruled in Apple’s favor in March, but the Court of Appeal in London overturned that decision on Thursday.

Reuters notes that on Thursday Judge Nicholas Green said in a written ruling that the CAT had “lost sight” of the CMA’s role to “promote competition and protect consumers.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.