London: European Union authorities began two antitrust investigations on Tuesday into Apple’s mobile app store and payment platform over concerns its practices distort competition, opening a new front in the EU’s battle against the dominance of big tech companies.
The EU’s executive Commission said it launched a formal investigation of Apple Pay over allegations that the company refuses access to the payment system in some cases and amid concerns that it limits access to the “tap and go” function on iPhones.
The Commission opened a second investigation into the mobile App Store over concerns Apple restricts developers from letting iPhone and iPad users know about ways to make purchases outside of apps. The investigation follows complaints from music streaming service Spotify and an e-book distributor on the impact of the App Store’s rules on the competition.
EU Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said “it appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices.”
It also appeared that Apple set conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites, she said. “It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies,” she added, noting that the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the growth in mobile payments as more people make online payments or “contactless” payments in store.
Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, has previously led antitrust investigations into other Silicon Valley giants including Google, which was hit with multibillion dollar fines.
Apple has been working to expand revenue in its services business to offset slowing growth from sales of iPhones and other hardware, but the EU investigation suggests Apple’s growing dominance has made it a target for regulators.
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