Japan mulls antitrust investigation into Apple and Google

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App Store faces barrage of antitrust charges
Japan is weighing up a possible antitrust investigation regarding mobile OS dominance.
Photo: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels CC

Japan is the latest country to turn its antitrust attention on Apple. The Japan Times reports that the Japanese government is set to investigate both Apple and Google over their dominance in mobile operating systems.

The report, which cites a Nikkei article, is short on details. It notes that nine out of 10 phones sold in Japan run either Android or iOS. But it does not explain where the problematic aspect of this is. Typically, antitrust involves situations in which a market leader, or collusion between market leaders, results in a monopoly of a particular market. Breaking up these monopolies is intended to give customers more choice.

Dominating the smartphone industry

There’s no doubt that iOS and Android are the most popular mobile operating systems around. But iOS and Android are almost the definition of a competitive market. That’s because customers unhappy with one can go to the other. While Google and Apple do have business arrangements, such as over iPhone search, it would be very, very surprising to hear that the two had colluded to keep other parties out of entering the smartphone business.

The report notes that:

“A government panel, which consists of officials, bureaucrats and external experts, will kick off the discussion this month as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software stands at more than 90% of the Japanese smartphone market, the paper said. The probe will include input from executives from domestic smartphone handset-makers as well as manufacturers of smart speakers and personal computers.”

The panel will supposedly look into Apple and Google’s business dealings in Japan. They will look to see if they are “conducted in a fair manner” compared with how the companies operate overseas. There is the potential of antitrust regulations down the line.

Antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech is ramping up around the world. Currently Democrats in the US are circulating drafts of antitrust bills that could affect the likes of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Meanwhile, the European Union also has investigations looking into Apple’s ownership of the App Store and Apple Pay.

Source: Japan Times