German Competition Authority Investigating Apple

German Competition Authority

Germany’s competition authority has launched an investigation into Apple based on new competition law regulations for Big Tech companies.

The probe, announced Monday (June 21) by the Bundeskartellamt, is the fourth investigation by the authority of a large digital firm, following cases involving Facebook, Amazon and Google earlier this year. Each case stems from a new amendment to the German Competition Act.

That amendment gives the authority power to “intervene earlier and more effectively, in particular against the practices of large digital companies,” the Bundeskartellamt said in a news release. The law lets the organization “prohibit companies which are of paramount significance for competition across markets from engaging in anti-competitive practices.”

One indication of whether Apple is “of paramount significance across markets” would be if the company was part of an “ecosystem” that stretches across a variety of markets.

Andreas Mundt, Bundeskartellamt president, said in the news release that his organization would examine whether Apple’s iOS has created that ecosystem around the iPhone. A key focus on the investigation, he added, would “be on the operation of the App Store as it enables Apple in many ways to influence the business activities of third parties.”

The Bundeskartellamt said it had received complaints about possible anti-competitive practices by Apple, including one from the media and ad industry against Apple’s restrictions against user tracking in iOS 14.5, and a complaint against Apple’s pre-installation of its own apps.

The Bundeskartellamt’s announcement comes less than a week after the Competition and Markets Authority in the U.K. launched a study to determine if Google and Apple’s platform duopoly suppresses competition and innovation or leads to higher consumer prices.

The British watchdog group says the two companies have an effective duopoly as Chrome and Safari are the world’s most widely used web browsers, Android and iOS are the main smartphone operating systems, and the Play Store and App store are essentially gatekeepers when it comes to downloading apps.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said last week the EU’s proposed big tech mandates could ultimately harm consumers by threatening iOS device security.