By Kristy Dorsey

The UK’s competition watchdog has launched an investigation into whether Apple is abusing its power as gatekeeper for mobile services on the iPhone to impose unfair terms and conditions on app developers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it has received complaints from “several” unnamed developers that the way in which the tech giant’s App Store operates could be in violation of competition law. The probe will look at whether Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on the iPhone and iPad, and if so, whether it imposes anti-competitive terms on developers that result in App Store users having less choice or paying higher prices.

The App Store is the only way for developers to distribute third-party apps on iPhones and iPads, and the only way Apple users can access them.

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Complaints to the CMA have noted that certain developers offering “in-app” features, add-ons or upgrades are required to use Apple’s payment system, rather than an alternative. Apple charges developers a 30 per cent commission on most digital purchases through the App Store.

With millions of UK consumers using apps every day to “check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway”, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said the complaints “warrant careful scrutiny”.

“Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends,” he said.

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“We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked. That’s why we’re pressing on with setting up the new Digital Markets Unit and launching new investigations wherever we have grounds to do so.”

The Apple investigation follows the launch of a CMA probe in January into Google’s web browser changes. The Digital Markets Unit is expected to launch later this year.