Feds quiz parental control app maker in Apple antitrust investigation

By

Mobicip
Mobicip created screen time limits before Apple did.
Photo: Mobicip

The U.S. Justice Department is reaching out to parental app control companies that may have been affected by Apple’s allegedly anti-competitive App Store practices.

Reuters reported this morning that Suren Ramasubbu, the chief executive developer of Mobicip, was interviewed by US investigators. Mobicip, which allows parents to control what kids access on their iPhones, was kicked out of the App Store last year because it failed to meet new app requirements.

Last summer it was revealed that the Justice Department was launching a broad anti-trust investigation into the major U.S. tech companies. A number of companies, including Spotify, have complained about Apple’s App Store practices, but now we’re getting a clearer picture of the scope of the investigation into Apple.

Apple’s Mobicip beef

Ramasubbu says Apple contacted Mobichip at the beginning of 2019 to warn them the app violated rules related to technical elements that were previously acceptable. Apple updates rules related to iOS apps every year at WWDC. Popular apps breaking new rules aren’t that uncommon so the company gives all apps a grace period to adopt the new practices.

Of course, just because the Justice Department is questioning people, doesn’t mean formal charges will actually be brought up against Apple. According to Reuters, the Justice Department has contacted a handful of app developers. Mobicip’s executives were interviewed in November. The app had just been reinstated in the App Store in October 2019.

In Mobicip’s case, Apple had just sherlocked many of its features with the release of Screen Time as part of iOS 12 in 2018. Six parental control app companies told Reuters that they had comfortable relationships with Apple until mid-2018 when Screen Time came out. Ramasubbu estimates that his company’s business shrank in half during the time it was kicked off the App Store.

Amazon, Google and Facebook are all also likely to be included in the Justice Department’s investigation into anti-competitive behavior by big tech. U.S. Attorney General William Barr has stated that he hopes to wrap up the investigation by the end of this year.