December 19, 2022
The CMA is proposing to investigate theories of competitive harm based on both the structure of the market(s) and the conduct of relevant businesses within these or other related markets. The issues statement outlines initial theories on what might be affecting competition and potential remedies. It does not set out the CMA’s findings or conclusions.
The CMA’s own Mobile Ecosystems Market Study found that Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in the supply of mobile browsers and browser engines. The CMA will investigate whether Apple and Google have unilateral market power, which is a source of competitive harm, and whether they are protecting this in anti-competitive ways.
The Market Study also found that Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in the supply of mobile operating systems and the distribution of native apps. The CMA plans to investigate whether they are using these positions to weaken competition in the “downstream” supply of mobile browsers and browser engines, and the distribution of cloud gaming services.
The CMA also proposes to investigate certain agreements between Apple and Google in relation to browser search revenue sharing.
In relation to browsers and browser engines, the CMA proposes to focus its investigation on the following questions:
- whether indirect network effects (arising from the need for browsers to be compatible with websites) reinforce the positions of Google’s Blink browser engine and Apple’s WebKit browser engine and act as a barrier to expansion for competing browser engines;
- whether Apple is using its position in the supply of mobile operating systems to restrict competing browsers’ ability to develop competitive features, in particular by requiring that all browsers on iOS use Apple’s WebKit browser engine;
- whether Apple and Google are using their position in the supply of browser engines to restrict rival browsers’ access to functionality which is available in the WebKit and Blink browser engines;
- whether Apple and Google are restricting others’ in-app browsers in a way which is weakening rivalry from rival browsers and browser engines;
- whether Apple and Google are using choice architecture to reinforce the positions of their browsers and raise barriers to expansion for competing browsers; and
- whether search revenue sharing agreements between Apple and Google reduce their incentives to compete in browsers and browser engines on iOS.
The CMA says that these concerns could mean that development and innovation on the web is slower than it might otherwise be, which would mean the loss of new mobile products and services that might otherwise benefit consumers, businesses and the economy. It would also mean that existing products and services are worse quality or more expensive than they otherwise could be. Ultimately, the CMA says, consumers could be losing out on some of the benefits of the world wide web.
As for cloud gaming, the CMA proposes to focus its investigation on whether Apple’s App Store policies effectively ban cloud gaming services from its App Store and whether this weakens competition in the distribution of cloud gaming. The CMA uses the term ‘cloud gaming services’ in this case to mean services which allow for the streaming of games from remote servers to users’ devices (i.e. not gaming in the sense of betting and gaming).
In terms of remedies for any adverse effect on competition that the CMA might find in relation to browsers, the CMA will consider:
- removing Apple’s restrictions on competing browser engines on iOS devices;
- requiring Apple and Google to provide greater access to functionality for rival browsers;
- requirements that make it more straightforward for users to change the default browser within their device settings;
- choice screens to overcome the distortive effects of pre-installation;
- requirements to enable users to choose their default browser for in-app browsing;
- requirement for apps to respect the user’s default browser choice for in-app browsing; and
- remedies related to Revenue Sharing Agreements.
As for cloud gaming services remedies, the CMA will consider requiring Apple to remove its App Store restrictions on cloud gaming services. The CMA considers that there are various possible alternatives that could be used to facilitate access to cloud gaming services on iOS devices. Potential options include:
- requiring app store operators, including Apple, to review and amend their guidelines to ensure cloud gaming providers are not unduly impacted by one or more guidelines in place;
- enabling prompts about cloud gaming services web apps in the Apple App Store when consumers are searching for cloud gaming apps;
- making Apple’s App Store approval and rejection process more transparent and consistent;
- enabling sideloading of native apps on iOS;
- enabling distribution of web apps through Apple’s App Store; and
- enabling installation of alternative app stores on iOS; Apple would be required to allow iOS consumers to install alternative app stores that distribute cloud gaming services apps.
The CMA is inviting stakeholders to submit their views on the issues statement by 17 January 2023. Responses should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. To access the full issues statement, click here.