Apple's 'dominant' position puts it under Germany's antitrust microscope

Inside the Apple Store in Knightsbridge, London
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

Apple is once again in the middle of a potential antitrust storm, this time in Germany.

The German antitrust authority, Bundeskartellamt, says that Apple has now met its test for special abuse controls which means that it will continue under that designation for the next five years.

The authority cited Apple's dominance in the market as well as its vertical integration as reasons for the move, saying that it has “paramount significance for competition across markets” as a result.

A dominant position

In a press release reported by TechCrunch, the authority said that Apple's huge installed user base makes it particularly notable.

“Based on this tight proprietary vertical structure and an installed base of more than 2 billion active devices worldwide, Apple is active in many ways on market levels and business areas that are linked to each other and is therefore in a position to tie its users to its complex ecosystem on a long-term basis," the statement reads. "This is associated with a strong power to set rules for third parties, above all for app developers.”

That set of rules for developers is something that comes up time and again, with App Store rules getting Apple in trouble the world over. Governments are concerned that Apple's control over what apps can and cannot do, and whether they can even be installed on its devices, could have a chilling effect on innovation.

Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, also commented that "Apple has an economic position of power across markets which gives rise to a scope of action that is not sufficiently controlled by competition." Mundt continued, saying that "this decision enables us to specifically take action against and effectively prohibit anti-competitive practices."

Apple, predictably, says that it will appeal the decision while also pointing out that it "discounts the value of a business model that puts user privacy and security at its core."

Apple will hope that this news doesn't distract it and outsiders from what will be a big year for the company. Not only will it announce its best iPhones ever later this year, but it is also expected to unveil its first mixed reality headset at WWDC in June.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.