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Cloud gaming and mobile browsers market investigation opened in the UK

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an in-depth investigation into competition in the UK’s cloud gaming and mobile browsers markets.

On 22 November, the CMA decided to open an investigation in light of findings from a year-long study it concluded earlier this year into mobile ecosystems. The CMA at that time determined that Apple and Google act as gatekeepers over operating systems, app stores and web browsers. It highlighted concerns other businesses have raised about their ability to offer competing services and to innovate.

As part of its market investigation (21-page / 251KB PDF), the CMA will consider whether there are features of the cloud gaming or mobile browsers markets that have an adverse effect on competition.

Following publication of its final market study report in June 2022, the CMA consulted stakeholders on whether to open a market investigation, which entails a deeper probe into specific markets than occurs during a broader market study. Both Apple and Google were among the respondents to that consultation.

Google said that a market investigation could have “a positive impact on the distribution of mobile browsers and cloud gaming apps in circumstances where there is reliable evidence of features giving rise to adverse effects on competition and where appropriate remedies are available”. However, it said the “primary concerns in relation to mobile browser and cloud gaming competition appear to stem from Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines on iOS and its App Store restrictions on cloud gaming” and that those issues do not arise in relation in the context of its Android operating system.

Google added that it does not impose “any rules or restrictions on browsers using alternative browser engines” and claimed that the adoption of cloud gaming on Android has “been much faster than on rival mobile platforms”.

For its part, Apple said that it does not restrict users’ ability to download and use alternative browser apps, nor prevent other browsers from differentiating themselves from its Safari browser. It said it deploys security and privacy features that reasonably restrict the deployment of new browser features. On cloud gaming, it said it does not prevent cloud gaming apps from appearing on its App Store, nor tries to block the emergence of cloud gaming apps. It said it has “worked with developers specifically to allow them to offer cloud gaming apps, whilst maintaining adequate protection for consumers”.

Market investigations generally must be completed within 18 months, though the CMA can extend its investigation by a further six months in exceptional circumstances. If the CMA finds adverse effects on competition in its investigation, it has the power to impose its own remedies on businesses and or make recommendations to other bodies such as sectoral regulators or the government if it considers legislation, for example, is necessary to address the issues it finds.

Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, said: “We want to make sure that UK consumers get the best new mobile data services, and that UK developers can invest in innovative new apps.”

“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,” she said.

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