verification Japan’s Fair Trade Commission on whether Apple and Google are taking advantage of their dominance in the smartphone operating system market to eliminate competition and severely limit consumer choices.
The investigation includes interviews and opinion polls with operating system operators, application developers and smartphone users, said commission secretary general Shuichi Sugahisa.
The initiative explores market conditions for smartphones, smartwatches and wearable devices. The antitrust watchdog compiles a report outlining the operating system market structure and why competition remains constant.
The commission is working with the Central Government’s Digital Market Competition Board, which is moving forward with its own market realization. Practices found to be anticompetitive are detailed in the report, along with potential violations of Japan’s antitrust law.
In February, the government implemented the Law to Improve Transparency and Justice for Digital Platforms. If officials determine that the law applies to the operating system market, it requires operating system operators to submit regular transaction reports to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
iOS from Apple in Japan accounts for nearly 70 percent of smartphone operating systems. While Android’s share of Google is 30%.
Any app developer – whether it’s music, streaming videos, e-books or mobile games – needs to match the software to operating system specifications if they want to appear on smartphones.
Google has been accused of telling device makers to include its search app as a requirement to install Android. Consumers using these devices cannot use other search applications.
The Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether Apple and Google are using their market edge to contain apps and leave consumers at a disadvantage.
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Apple and Google benefit from their dominance
Competition agencies around the world are moving to remove the restrictions that tech giants place on consumers and developers.
The US Federal Trade Commission submitted a report to Congress in May outlining how mobile device manufacturers use parts and adhesives that are not available to consumers and third-party operators, in contravention of so-called right-to-repair legislation. The Federal Trade Commission launched an antitrust investigation in July.
The US Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google last October due to anti-competitive practices in the search engine market.
According to the lawsuit, Google paid Apple up to $12 billion annually in exchange for being the default search engine via the Safari browser. The Department of Justice is also investigating whether Google prefers its Android apps.
The European Union has previously sanctioned Google. In 2018, the European Commission imposed a fine of 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) on the company. This is because device makers are forced to pre-install the Android operating system with their apps.
The Japan Fair Trade Commission has been examining the digital sector since 2019. An investigation into the cloud services market was launched in April. The new investigation will be the fourth to be conducted in this initiative. That’s after the e-commerce market, app stores, digital advertising, and cloud services.
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