CMA launches investigation into cloud gaming and browsers

November 24, 2022

The Competition and Markets Authority consulted on launching a market investigation alongside its Mobile Ecosystem Market Study report, which found that Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems, including operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

Browsers are one of the most important and widely used apps on mobile devices. Most people use their browser at least daily to access online content such as information, news, videos and shopping. 97% of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine, so any restrictions on these engines can have a major impact on users’ experiences.

Computers games are a multi-billion pound industry in the UK, played by millions of people. There are already more than 800,000 users of cloud gaming services in the UK but restrictions on their distribution on mobile devices could hamper growth in this sector, meaning UK gamers miss out.

The CMA has published the responses to the consultation, which contained substantial support for a fuller investigation into the way that Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store. Many of those responses came from browser suppliers, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers who say that the status quo is harming their businesses, holding back innovation, and adding unnecessary costs.

Web developers have complained that Apple’s restrictions, combined with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to added costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages, and have no choice but to create bespoke mobile apps when a website might be sufficient.

Ultimately, these restrictions limit choice and may make it more difficult to bring innovative new apps to the hands of UK consumers. At the same time, Apple and Google have argued that restrictions are needed to protect users. The CMA’s market investigation will consider these concerns and consider whether new rules are needed to drive better outcomes.

Market investigations can result in changes to companies’ behaviour and restrictions, which improve competition and lead to greater choice for consumers and better-quality products.

The CMA’s work to date has identified widespread concerns in relation to digital advertising and mobile ecosystems. It has concluded that it can tackle these issues most effectively with its anticipated new powers via the Digital Markets Unit, which will allow the CMA to actively monitor, enforce and update remedies. The CMA continues to support the government to bring forward the necessary legislation, which it committed to in the Autumn Statement on 17 November 2022. In the meantime, the CMA is committed to using its existing powers to deliver one-off interventions in digital markets, where these are found to be necessary to improve outcomes for UK consumers and businesses. In particular, if the market investigation finds problems with cloud gaming and mobile browsers, it may be able to tackle these via a one-off removal of restrictions.