Germany probes Apple's tracking rules

Apple's rules apply to third parties but not to Apple itself, Germany's antitrust watchdog said after initiating proceedings against the technology giant.

The Bundeskartellamt is looking into Apple's App Tracking Transparency Framework (ATT) for third-party apps to see whether these rules leave other companies at a disadvantage.

"A corporation like Apple, which is in a position to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, in particular for its app store, should make pro-competitive rules. We have reason to doubt that this is the case when we see that Apple's rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself," Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, said.

Not abiding by its own rules would allow Apple "to give preference to its own offers or impede other companies."

Apple's ATT framework requires users to give additional consent through third-party apps. Tracking can be used by advertisers and app developers, for example, to display targeted advertising.

"These options can be particularly relevant to providers of third-party apps in case their business models rely on apps which are available free of charge but financed through advertising," the German watchdog noted.

Its preliminary findings indicate that Apple is not subject to the new and additional rules of the App Tracking Transparency Framework.

Last week, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK said it wanted to investigate Apple and Google's market power in mobile browsers and Apple's restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store.

"When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards. As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice," Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said.

The CMA is consulting on launching a market investigation into Apple and Google's market power. It is also taking enforcement action against Google concerning its app store payment practices.

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