The U.K.’s antitrust regulator has launched an investigation into Apple Inc. and Google LLC over their business practices in the mobile market.

The Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA, announced the investigation today. The move follows a consultation that the CMA held with several market players including a number of mobile browser developers. Earlier, the regulator carried out a yearlong study of the mobile market to determine how the business practices of Apple and Google affect rivals’ ability to compete.

The first focus of the antitrust investigation that the CMA announced today is mobile browsers. Apple’s Safari browser, the WebKit browser engine on which Safari is based, and Google Chrome accounted for 97% of mobile browser use in the U.K. last year. The CMA believes that Apple and Google may have limited the ability of rival browser makers to compete with their software.

According to the CMA, the fact that Safari and Chrome are preinstalled on many mobile devices may have decreased market competition. The regulator also pointed to certain devices’ default browser settings as an area of concern.

Another focus of the investigation is WebKit, a technology that Apple’s Safari browser uses to render web pages. Apple requires that competing browser makers and other app developers also use WebKit for web page rendering. According to the CMA, this requirement limits the ability of rival browser makers to differentiate their products from Safari.

“Many U.K. businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google,” said Sarah Cardell, the interim Chief Executive Officer of the CMA. “We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors.”

The other segment that the CMA’s investigation will prioritize is the cloud gaming market. Nvidia Corp., Microsoft Corp. and a number of other companies provide services that enable users to run video games in the cloud. Apple has in recent years limited the ability of companies to list such services on the App Store, a practice that the CMA believes may harm market competition.

Apple said in a statement that it will “continue to engage constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice.” 

Google stated that “Android gives people a greater choice of apps and app stores than any other mobile platform. It also enables developers to choose the browser engine they want, and has been the launchpad for millions of apps. We’re committed to building thriving, open platforms that empower consumers and help developers build successful businesses.” 

Photo: Unsplash

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