UK watchdog looking into Apple, Google's dominance of mobile phone systems

A 3D printed Google logo is placed on the Apple Macbook in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's competition watchdog said it would investigate whether Apple and Google's dominance of mobile phone operating systems, app stores and web browsers hurt consumers, launching its latest probe into the tech giants.

The Competition and Markets Authority said it would undertake a "market study" into the matter to see whether the pair's effective duopoly was stifling competition and ripping off consumers, or hurting businesses like app developers.

Governments around the world are looking at strengthening the regulation of U.S. tech giants that have become even more powerful during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are multiple investigations globally into their market positions including in the United States and the European Union.

Britain is setting up a dedicated unit within the CMA to keep the tech giants in check and encourage digital competition but said it needed to start work probing iPhone maker Apple and the Google-powered Android system as soon as possible.

"Our ongoing work into big tech has already uncovered some worrying trends and we know consumers and businesses could be harmed if they go unchecked," CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said in a statement on Tuesday.

The CMA said the new study into mobile ecosystems would be broader than some of the other competition probes it already has into Apple's App Store and Google's Privacy Sandbox.

Last year, the CMA concluded an investigation into digital advertising, concluding that Google and Facebook have developed unassailable market positions, with the two accounting for nearly 80% of UK's digital advertising spend. It recommended regulatory changes as a result.

(Reporting by Sarah Young in London, additional reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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