Google filing says EU’s antitrust division is investigating Play Store practices • TechCrunch
A Google regulatory filing appears to have confirmed rumors in recent months that the EU’s competition department is looking into how it operates its smartphone app store, the Play Store.
However, TechCrunch is aware that an official EU investigation into the Play Store has not been opened at this point.
Supreme Education Council Form 10-Quploaded by Google’s parent alphabet (and previously spotted by Reuters), refers to the “official” investigations opened into Google Play’s “business practices” in May 2022 – by both the European Commission and the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The thing is, the Commission’s action on opening a formal competition investigation is to make a public announcement – so the absence of this standard part of the regulatory disclosure suggests that any EU investigation is in a more preliminary stage than a Google quote might suggest.
The UK’s antitrust regulator’s investigation into Google Play is no doubt an official one – having been publicly reported by the CMA back in June When it said it would investigate Google’s rules governing apps’ access to listings in its Play Store, looking at the terms it sets for how users can make in-app payments for some digital products.
While, in August, Politico It stated that the commission had sent out surveys to check Play Store billing terms and developer fees – citing two people close to the matter. It may indicate that an investigation is underway. Although the EU executive refused to comment on its report.
A spokeswoman for the commission also declined to comment when we asked about the “official investigation” mentioned in Google’s filing (at the time of writing, Google has also not responded to requests about it).
But we are aware that there is no “official” EU investigation into Play yet – at least not how the EU understands the word.
This may be because the EU Competition Department is still evaluating responses to inquiries made to date – and/or assessing whether there are grounds for concern.
Instead, she may have decided she had no concerns about how Google would run the Play Store. Despite developers’ complaints about App Store commissions being charged by Google (and Apple) – through the 30% discount typically applied to in-app purchases (15% lower rate can be applied initially) – not diminished. If anything, complaints have risen — including as a result of moves by the tech giants to expand the types of sales that incur their taxes. So the lack of competition concerns here seems unlikely.
last yearThe panel also accused Apple of an antitrust breach related to the mandatory use of an in-app purchase mechanism imposed on (specifically) music-streaming app developers and restrictions on developers that prevent them from informing users of cheaper alternative payment options.
So the App Store terms and conditions are definitely on the EU’s radar.
More: The European Union recently passed Legislation that aims, among various proactive provisions, to regulate the fairness of the App Store Terms. So the existence of this pre-competition system seems to be the most likely explanation for why there is no official EU investigation into Google Play today.
When it comes to Google, UNHCR has It has already issued several major antitrust enforcement actions against its business over the past five years – decisions against Google Shopping, Android and AdSense; as well as Ongoing investigation into Google’s adtech stack (plus another look Ranking an ad between Google and Facebook).
Another consideration here is that EU lawmakers have spent a very busy year reaching consensus on a number of key parts of digital regulation – including the aforementioned competition reform (also known as the Digital Markets Act; DMA) that will deliver the Commission In a central enforcement role to oversee the so-called “internet vigilantes.”
This upcoming system requires the Commission to quickly rotate new sections to oversee and enforce DMA compliance – so the EU may feel a little squeezed on the resource front. But – more importantly – she may also try to keep her powder dry.
Essentially, the panel would want to see if the DMA itself could do the job of sorting out the fist of app developers—since the regulation contains a number of provisions geared specifically toward app stores, including a ban on gatekeepers “imposing general terms, including So pricing terms”, it would be unfair or lead to unjustified differentiation [on business users]’, for example.
The regulation is set to come into effect from the spring of 2023, so achieving new competition in the Google Play Store at this point could risk duplicating or complicating the enforcement of conditions already set out in EU law. (Although mapping gatekeepers and core platform services should come before any enforcement – so real DMA may not happen before 2024).
For its part, Google denies any antitrust wrongdoing, anywhere in the world its business practices are investigated.
“We believe these complaints are unfounded and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” she wrote in the filing section for antitrust investigations targeting her business.
Her file also reveals her intention to seek an appeal to the EU’s highest court after her attempt to overturn the EU’s Android ruling I refused last month. (CJEU will only hear appeals about a legal issue, so it remains to be seen what Google will attempt to discuss.)
Also today, the UK’s Capital Markets Authority issued a statement second report on me Continuous monitoring of the commitments made by Google Because it develops a new ad technology stack to replace tracking cookies (aka Privacy Sandbox).
The regulator said it found Google to comply with commitments made to date – and listed its current priorities as: ensuring that Google designs a robust testing framework for its tools and proposed new APIs; continue to communicate with market participants to understand the concerns they have raised, challenge Google on its proposed approaches and explore alternative designs for Privacy Sandbox tools that may address these issues; Inclusion of a recently appointed independent technical expert (a company called S-RM) in the monitoring system.
The CMA report also reveals that – along with the UK’s privacy watchdog, the ICO – it is in discussions with Google about designing user controls when the Privacy Sandbox reaches public availability in 2023.
So it will be interesting to see if UK regulators are run enough to stop the usual manipulative design tricks from getting cynically involved in future ad approval interfaces.
“Google has provided current proposed user interfaces for thematic controls, FLEDGE, and ad measurement. Along with the ICO, we continue to dialogue with Google about this and what underlies current design decisions about opt-in or opt-out flow,” the CMA notes on it.
“The key feature of our final privacy sandbox assessment is the assessment of the privacy impacts of the technologies themselves and how they compare to their performance against standards for development and implementation, including competition,” he adds, “and we continue to work with the ICO on approaches to measuring and evaluating the impacts of Google’s changes on data privacy.”