JFTC starts another antitrust probe against Apple and Google on smart devices: Report

The latest antitrust probe will explore market conditions for smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

The Japanese Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) is reportedly commencing a new antitrust investigation into Apple and Google-parent Alphabet's conduct across various technology areas.

According to Nikkei, the Japanese competition watchdog will conduct interviews and surveys with OS operators, app developers, and smartphone users to assess whether Apple and Google have created anti-competitive market conditions in the smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables sectors.

The JFTC will reportedly work with the government-run Digital Market Competition Council during the probe.

The new investigation comes just over a month after the JFTC closed an investigation into Apple's in-app purchasing system. In that investigation, the Japanese competition watchdog found Apple acted anti-competitively in requiring developers to pay Apple's commission on in-app purchases, and that it should allow them to point users to external payment options, like their own websites.

To close that investigation, Apple made a deal with JFTC to allow developers of "reader" apps to link to external websites for setting up and managing accounts. The update will take effect sometime next year, Apple said in September. Reader apps are those that provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video, such as Spotify and Netflix.

Around the world, regulators have set their eyes on the market dominance of Apple and Google. In Australia, the government is undertaking various probes on the two companies focusing on a wide range of areas, spanning from ad tech to browsers to mobile OS systems.

In the US, various states have issued a lawsuit against Google for its alleged anti-competitive control over the app store market. A US probe that wrapped up last October found Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google all had an "alarming pattern" of using innovation-stifling practices. In light of those findings, the government in August introduced a Bill into Congress that is aimed at curbing "big tech bullying".

The European Union, meanwhile, has doled out billions of dollars worth of fines to both Google and Apple for alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

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