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India’s competition regulator launches probes into Apple over App Store fees and access

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an antitrust investigation into Apple’s business practices.

Issued on New Year’s Eve, the order was made in response to a single complaint by an activist group called “Together We Fight Society” that appears not to have a website and, according to its Twitter account has a retro-tastic email account with Hotmail.

The group first complained about Apple to the CCI in September 2021 and alleged that the iThing maker’s requirement that developers use only the App Store and its payment options amount to anticompetitive and monopolistic behaviour, in part because it's possible to buy software for Apple's Mac computers from many sources. Apple has rebutted those arguments by pointing out that it has tiny smartphone market share in India – less than two percent by some counts – and is therefore nowhere near holding a monopoly position.

But the CCI wasn’t swayed by that argument and has reached a “prima facie view” that Apple has violated India’s Competition Act of 2002.

The order reveals that Apple has sought a preliminary conference with the CCI before the regulator issued its order. That request was ignored on grounds that Apple will have a chance to make submissions to the investigation, which will be conducted by the CCI’s director general and has a 60-day deadline to complete its probe and submit an investigation report.

The issues raised in the order are very similar to those raised by Epic Games in its attempt to sell direct to iOS users, and to South Korea’s decision to force Apple and Google to offer payment options other than those included in their own software souks.

Apple has all-but-ignored South Korea’s new law. Google has promised to offer alternative payment options in the nation.

Back in India, Google is already the subject of a broad antitrust case brought by the CCI that includes a probe of its Play store. A separate case is under way regarding Android-powered smart televisions.

Apple now finds itself under investigation in the USA, EU, India, and many other nations. The company consistently responds by saying that its integrated ecosystem serves consumers better than would be possible if third parties were allowed access to iThings, that the fees it charges developers are not vastly different to the cost of selling goods in the real world, and resists changes to its business practices. ®

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