Russian competition watchdog wants Apple to stop abusing its App Store power

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A hot potato: Apple’s tight control over the App Store has served it well over the years, both in winning users’ trust and in attracting high profile apps to iOS. However, the privacy and security argument is starting to look increasingly like an excuse for monopolistic behavior, bringing the company into the crosshairs of regulators in several regions.

While Apple is busy bullying a small app developer for supposedly creating confusion around a logo, Russia’s antitrust watchdog has decided to take action against the iPhone maker for abusing its dominant position in the mobile app market.

The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) announced on Monday that it has concluded its investigation into Apple’s App Store practices and found it in violation of local competition laws. In the ruling, the FAS cites the company’s requirement that all iOS app be downloaded through the App Store, as well as the company’s penchant for removing apps from the marketplace at a whim.

The investigation started in September 2019 after Apple decided to block parental control apps that made use of Mobile Device Management functionality, which gave them access over sensitive user information such as location, email accounts, camera permissions, browser history, and app usage data.

At the time, Russian antivirus company Kaspersky filed a complaint against Apple, as they were blocked from publishing updates to its parental control app called Safe Kids. Apple still believes it had the right to do, as to protect users’ privacy and security, so it will appeal the FAS ruling in the coming weeks.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was questioned about controversial App Store policies during a U.S. Congress antitrust hearing last month, where he argued the same points about putting the user first and trying to create a safe app marketplace.

The App Store along with Apple Pay are the subject of an antitrust investigation in the European Union, after several companies complained about Apple’s gatekeeping behavior. And as days go by, more companies hit the same wall — Microsoft and Google can’t offer their cloud gaming services on iOS, and Facebook couldn’t launch a streaming player with mini-games — because they supposedly look like alternative app stores to Apple’s.

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