Apple has been handed a setback after a court ruling in favour of the UK’s competition and antitrust regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Reuters reported that on Thursday London’s Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court decision, to allow the CMA to investigate Apple’s mobile browser and cloud gaming services.
It came after May this year, when the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) had refused the CMA permission to appeal against its ruling in March in favour of Apple.
Apple had won an appeal in March against the decision by the CMA to open a full investigation into the dominance of Apple and Alphabet’s Google in mobile browsers and cloud gaming services.
That left the CMA with the only option to take its bid for permission to appeal against the tribunal’s ruling directly to London’s Court of Appeal – a process it then following and it has now secured a ruling in its favour.
The CMA had opened a full investigation in 2022 into the dominance of Apple and Alphabet’s Google in mobile browsers.
Apple had argued that the CMA had “no power” to launch such an inquiry because it did so too late and that the probe should have been opened last June at the same time the CMA published a report on mobile ecosystems, which found Apple and Google had an “effective duopoly.”
Now Reuters reported that Judge Nicholas Green said in a written ruling that the CAT had “lost sight” of the CMA’s role to “promote competition and protect consumers.”
He also said there would be “serious consequences” for the CMA if the CAT’s interpretation of the competition regulator’s powers was correct.
“It would mean that the CMA had no jurisdiction, even some years later, to investigate concerns into the behaviour of an undertaking such as Apple or Google, even if such concerns were objectively justified,” Judge Green was quoted as saying.
“The CMA would be unable to impose a remedy designed to protect consumers in the public interest,” he said.
The CMA welcomed the unanimous judgement that overturned the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s (CAT) previous decision in March 2023.
However, the CMA’s market investigation remains on hold pending the determination of any application (by Apple) for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“This ruling gives the CMA the backing it needs to protect consumers and promote competition in UK,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA.
“As this judgement clearly states, the previous ruling by the CAT would have had ‘serious consequences’ for the CMA’s ability to investigate potential breaches of the law,” said Cardell.
“We launched this investigation over a year ago in order to make sure that UK consumers get the best services and apps on their mobile phones, and that UK developers can invest in innovative new apps,” said Cardell. “We stand ready to reopen it when the legal process is complete.”
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