Google and Apple may face UK probe over their dominance in mobile browsers

Mobile web browser apps on Android
Mobile web browsers (Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

Update (June 15, 7:46 am ET): Google says it will continue to work with the CMA, while maintaining that Android phones offer more choice than any other platform.

What you need to know

  • The UK's competition watchdog plans to open an investigation into Google and Apple's dominance in mobile browsers.
  • Without regulatory intervention, the Competition and Markets Authority fears that both companies will strengthen their stranglehold in this sector.
  • The investigation also targets Apple's cloud gaming restrictions via the App Store.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering launching a probe into Google and Apple's dominance in mobile browsers, citing concerns that both tech behemoths have a "duopoly" in this sector.

According to the CMA, both companies have established "duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over these markets," referring to the Android and iOS operating systems, app stores, and mobile web browsers.

It is now consulting on launching a probe into the duo's dominance. The consultation, which runs until July 22, comes just days after it launched an investigation into Google's dominance in digital ad tech exchanges.

The CMA wants to know if any action is required to address potential competition concerns over Google and Apple's strong grip on the mobile browser segment. It also plans to look into Apple's cloud gaming restrictions through the App Store.

"Without interventions, both companies are likely to maintain, and even strengthen, their grip over the sector, further restricting competition and limiting incentives for innovators," the CMA said (opens in new tab).

The planned investigation builds upon the regulators' review of the companies’ dominance in the mobile tech market last year. Based on its assessment, the CMA has "identified a range of potential interventions across these ecosystems" and "looked at where it can take immediate targeted action to tackle these problems using its current powers."

Android Central has contacted Google and Apple for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

The CMA said Apple and Google have made it difficult for smaller businesses to compete in their respective mobile ecosystems.

"When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

Both Google and Apple hold a combined 90% share of the UK's mobile browser market, seeing as Chrome and Safari come pre-installed on Android phones and iOS devices.

In the United States, lawmakers are crafting two bills (opens in new tab) intended to rein in Big Tech's anti-competitive behaviors. The American Choice and Innovation Act (AICO) and the Open App Markets Act will prevent tech giants from favoring their own services.

Meanwhile, the CMA aims to create "legally binding orders requiring changes to be made to Apple’s and Google’s practices."

In addition, it's investigating Google’s app store payment practices. The new Google Play Store billing policy requires developers to use its proprietary system for all in-app transactions. It did not go down well with several state attorneys general, leading to a lawsuit filed against Google last year over allegations it holds an illegal monopoly over mobile app distribution.

Update

Google maintains that Android provides more options for consumers and businesses than any other operating systems. The company says it will continue to cooperate with the CMA.

“Android phones offer people and businesses more choice than any other mobile platform," a Google spokesperson told Android Central. "Google Play has been the launchpad for millions of apps, helping developers create global businesses that support a quarter of a million jobs in the UK alone."

The search giant noted that it regularly reviews how it can "best support developers and have reacted quickly to CMA feedback in the past."

"We will review the report and continue to engage with the CMA," the company said.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.