German competition watchdog launches antitrust probe into Apple App Store practices

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, the Bundeskartellamt, has today started proceedings against the technology giant Apple on the claims of anti-competitive behavior related to the App Store, its products, and other services. The proceedings will determine whether Apple holds a “paramount significance across markets” and whether, through its ecosystem, it holds enough power to make it difficult for “other companies” to challenge it.

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However, the department has not specified what the outcome of the investigation may lead to. However, the office says that if it determines a company to be of importance across markets, it may prohibit that company from “engaging in anti-competitive practices.”

In a statement related to this investigation, Apple said: Apple is proud to be an engine for innovation and job creation, with more than 250,000 jobs supported by the iOS app economy in Germany. The ‌App Store‌’s economic growth and activity have given German developers of all sizes the same opportunity to share their passion and creativity with users around the world while creating a secure and trusted place for customers to download the apps they love with the privacy protections they expect. Germany is also home to Apple’s largest engineering hub in Europe, and a new €1bn investment in our European Silicon Design Center in Munich. We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns.”

The watchdog has made use of enhanced powers gained under recent reforms to Germany’s competition laws to open investigations into Alphabet’s Google, Facebook, and Amazon over their data practices.

In April, nine industry associations representing companies like Facebook and publisher Axel Springer filed an antitrust complaint to the federal office, claiming that Apple’s ATT framework will severely hurt publishers and their bottom lines, deeming it a threat to their business.

It has also shown a list of ongoing disputes regarding Apple’s in-app purchasing system, which gives Apple a 30% commission of all purchases made and the restriction that apps may only be distributed on Apple devices through the company’s ‌App Store‌ and not other third-party app marketplaces.