The German competition authorities will be keeping a closer eye on Apple due to its potentially dominant position. The Federal Cartel Office has announced that Apple, like Amazon, Facebook and Google, now requires “extended abuse supervision” under Section 19a of the Act Against Restraints of Competition for its digital regulations. The company’s proprietary products, iOS and the App Store, occupy key positions for competition and access to the ecosystem and Apple customers. Apple’s cross-market economic position of power gives the group “behavioural leeway that is not sufficiently controlled by the competition”, according to Andreas Mundt, head of the Federal Cartel Office.
Apple has a relatively small market share compared to Google’s Android system, but it is dominant within its ecosystem and has not yet permitted apps to be sideloaded or alternative payment services in the App Store. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) is intended to open this up. Apple’s response to the decision cites its tough competition in Germany and the value of its business model, which prioritises the privacy and security of users. Meanwhile, the Bundeskartellamt is investigating whether Apple’s app tracking protection ATT primarily benefits the company itself.
The tightened control conditions could now give competition guardians a better handle on Apple, which is one of the top-selling and most profitable companies globally, with a comprehensive digital ecosystem that has great importance for competition not only in Germany, but also in Europe and worldwide. The Bundeskartellamt’s decision empowers competition authorities to “specifically take up anti-competitive practices and effectively prevent them”.