Apple and Google in antitrust investigation in Japan
Apple and Google in antitrust investigation in Japan

Japan's Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether Apple and Google are using their dominant market position for smartphone operating systems to eliminate competition and severely limit consumer choice.

Shuichi Sugahisa, secretary general of the commission, said the survey included interviews and surveys with operating system operators, application developers and smartphone users.

The plan studies market conditions for smartphones, smartwatches and wearable devices. The Antimonopoly Authority has prepared a report in which it determines the structure of the operating system market and the reasons for not changing competition.

The commission works with the Central State Competition Commission for the Digital Market, which is leading its own market investigation. The report describes perceived anti-competitive practices and potential violations of Japan's antitrust laws.

In February, the government implemented the law to improve transparency and fairness on digital platforms. If it is formally determined that the law applies to the operating system market, then the operating system operators must submit regular transaction reports to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Apple's iOS accounts for nearly 70% of Japan's smartphone operating systems. And the percentage of Android in Google 30%.

Every application developer, be it music, streaming video, e-books, or mobile games, must adapt the software to the specifications of the operating system if it is to appear on a smartphone.

Google is accused of requiring device manufacturers to make their search app a prerequisite for installing Android. Consumers using these devices will not be able to use other search applications.

The Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether Apple and Google are using their business advantages to contain apps and harm consumers.

Apple and Google benefit from their dominance

Competition authorities around the world are taking action to lift restrictions that tech giants place on consumers and developers.

The US Federal Trade Commission submitted a report to Congress in May describing how mobile device manufacturers are using parts and adhesives not available to consumers and third parties, in violation of market laws. The Federal Trade Commission opened an antitrust investigation in July.

The US Department of Justice filed an antitrust complaint against Google in October last year for its anti-competitive practices in the search engine market.

According to the lawsuit, Google pays Apple up to $12 billion annually to make it the default search engine on the Safari browser. The Department of Justice is also investigating whether Google favors its Android apps.

The European Union had previously imposed sanctions on Google. In 2018, the European Commission imposed a fine of €4.3 billion (US$5 billion). This is because device manufacturers have to pre-install Android in their apps.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission has been investigating the digital sector since 2019. An investigation into the cloud services market was launched in April. The new survey is the fourth to be implemented under the initiative. It is after the markets of e-commerce, app store, digital advertising, and cloud services.

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