Apple, Google hit with UK browser probe

The UK competition watchdog pulled the trigger on an investigation into Apple and Google’s dominance in mobile browsers after gaining substantial support from industry players in a consultation process which began in June.

Responses to the consultation process from browser vendors, web developers and cloud gaming service providers showed Apple and Google’s dominance was harming businesses, holding back innovation and adding to unnecessary costs, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) stated.

It launched the consultation process following a year-long Mobile Ecosystem Market Study, which found Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

The UK regulator explained in its statement announcing a probe that browsers are one of the most important and widely-used apps on mobile devices, with most people using them to access a range of content.

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In the UK, 97 per cent of all mobile web browsing in 2021 happened on Apple or Google browsers, “so any restrictions on these engines can have a major impact on users’ experiences”.

Sarah Cardell, interim CEO of CMA, said it planned to investigate both companies’ practices and assess whether concerns raised “are justified and if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors”.


In a related issue, the CMA also received feedback that Apple restricts cloud gaming services, of which there are 800,000 users in the country, hampering growth in the sector.

The regulator noted web developers have complained about Apple restrictions and lack of investment in browser technologies, arguing this limits choice and makes it more difficult to bring innovation to the UK market.