Russia’s Anti-Monopoly Watchdog to Investigate Apple Following Antitrust Complaint

Apple is under investigation by Russia's anti-monopoly watchdog following a complaint from cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab that the company is abusing its dominant position in smartphone apps, Reuters reports this morning.


Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) says it is investigating why a new version of Kaspersky Lab's Safe Kids application has not been updated on the iOS App Store, resulting in "a significant loss in functionality for the app."

Back in March, Apple pulled Kaspersky Safe Kids app from the App Store, prompting Kaspersky to file an antitrust complaint against Apple with the FAS.

Safe Kids allowed parents to specify which apps kids can run based on the App Store's age restrictions and let them hide browsers on their device so that web pages could only be accessed in the Kaspersky Safe Kids app's built-in secure browser.

Apple said it removed the app because it didn't meet its App Store guidelines, but Kaspersky argued that the app had already been in the App Store for three years and was only pulled because Apple had just released iOS 12 with its own Screen Time feature, which offers similar parental control functions.

Kaspersky's dispute has parallels with an antitrust complaint brought against Apple by Spotify earlier this year.

Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that the tech giant's App Store policy lets it act as "both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers."

Apple responded by calling the complaint "misleading rhetoric" and argued that "Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free."

Apple is also under investigation by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) to decide whether the company is abusing its position in the App Store by, for example, giving preferential treatment to its own apps. Apple has said it is "confident" the probe "will confirm all developers have an equal opportunity to succeed in the App Store."


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Kaspersky Lab Files Antitrust Complaint Against Apple Over App Store Policy

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service relating to the company's App Store distribution policy. The action comes less than a week after Spotify filed its own complaint against Apple with EU antitrust regulators over the tech giant's "unfair" App Store practices.


Kaspersky's complaint is specifically to do with Apple's removal of the Kaspersky Safe Kids app. In a blog post on the Kaspersky website, the firm says it received notice from Apple last year that the app, which had been in the App Store for three years, did not meet App Store guidelines owing to the use of configuration profiles.

Kaspersky was told by Apple that it would need to remove these profiles for the app to pass review and remain in the App Store, but the Russian firm had argued this action essentially crippled the app. "For us, that would mean removing two key features from Kaspersky Safe Kids: app control and Safari browser blocking."

The first allows parents to specify which apps kids can't run based on the App Store's age restrictions, while the second allows the hiding of all browsers on the device so that web pages can only be accessed in the Kaspersky Safe Kids app's built-in secure browser.

Kaspersky argues that the change in Apple's policy regarding parental control apps coincided with the release of iOS 12 and Apple's own Screen Time feature, which lets users monitor the amount of time they spend using certain apps and websites, and set time restrictions. Kaspersky calls it "essentially Apple's own app for parental control," and claims that's why Apple changed its tune on the firm's Safe Kids app and other apps like it.
From our point of view, Apple appears to be using its position as platform owner and supervisor of the sole channel for delivering apps to users of the platform to dictate terms and prevent other developers from operating on equal terms with it. As a result of the new rules, developers of parental control apps may lose some of their users and experience financial impact. Most important, however, it is the users who will suffer as they miss out on some critical security features. The market for parental control apps will head toward a monopoly and, consequently, stagnation.
Kaspersky says it wants to continue its "winning relationship with Apple," but on "a more equal footing," and hopes that its application to the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service will "benefit the market at large" and require Apple to "provide competitive terms to third-party developers."

Kaspersky's dispute has parallels with the antitrust complaint brought against Apple by Spotify last week. The music streaming service filed the complaint with the European Commission, accusing the iPhone maker of enforcing App Store rules that "purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience" and "acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers."

Apple responded to the complaint two days later, labeling it "misleading rhetoric" and arguing that "Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free." A day later, Spotify fired back, claiming "every monopolist will suggest they have done nothing wrong" and that, consequently, Apple's response was "entirely in line" with its expectations.


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