Russia to Apple: You're guilty of antitrust abuse over iOS app monopoly

After Kaspersky complains, Russia's competition authority finds Apple abused its total control over the App Store.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Russia's competition regulator has found that Apple abused its dominance over iOS apps because iPhone and iPad owners can only legally install them from Apple's App Store. 

Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) announced the decision against Apple on Monday following a request from Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky. 

Kaspersky filed a complaint with FAS in March last year, accusing Apple of using its control over the App Store and iOS apps to force Kaspersky to remove features from the Kaspersky Safe Kids iOS app. 

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The removed features included app control and Safari browser blocking, which Kaspersky claimed were banned to kill competition for Apple's then new built-in Screen Time feature for helping users monitor device usage.    

"Investigation showed that Apple occupies a dominant position with a 100% share in the market for distribution of mobile applications on the iOS operating system, since it is possible to install such an application legally only from the App Store," said FAS in a statement

Kaspersky didn't file the same complaint to the European Commission's (EC) competition regulator, but in a blogpost it referenced Spotify's appeal to the EC in which the music streaming company complained that Apple's payment system imposed a "tax" that forced it to charge a price for premium membership far above the cost of an Apple Music subscription. Spotify said Apple was "both a player and referee".

Europe kicked off an investigation based on Spotify's complaints in June, looking specifically at how Apple requires developers to use Apple's in-app purchase system, and restricts developers from telling iOS users about alternative and cheaper ways of buying content outside apps. 

According to FAS, since 2018 Apple had a "consistent policy on restricting the tools and capabilities for developing parental control applications" that coincided with its release of the Screen Time feature. 

Apple released Screen Time with iOS 12, which was offered to iPhone and iPad owners in September 2018. Kaspersky argued that before this, Apple had never raised objections with the Kaspersky Safe Kids app.  

According to Kaspersky, Apple rejected the features of the app because it relied on iOS configuration profiles and this was against App Store policy. iOS configuration profiles are used by companies as part of a mobile device management system. Apple's policy required Kaspersky to remove the two features, which it considered essential to serve its purpose, Kaspersky argued. 

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The app control feature allowed parents to prevent kids from using certain apps based on the App Store's age restrictions. The browser locking feature allows a parent to hide all browsers on the iOS device and restrict kids to the Kaspersky Safe Kids' build-in browser. 

The FAS said it "found that Apple abused its dominant position in relation to developers of parental control mobile applications and restricted competition in the market for distribution of applications on mobile devices running the iOS operating system".

FAS says it will issue Apple with a ruling and requirements to eliminate its violations under Russian law.

ZDNet has contacted Apple for comment and will update this article if it receives a response.

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