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Russia finds Apple abused App Store dominance

Apple allegedly snubbed Kaspersky by blocking an update to its parental control app.

Published onAugust 10, 2020

  • Russia’s competition regulator FAS has ruled that Apple abused its dominance through the App Store.
  • It was allegedly unfair when it blocked Kaspersky’s Safe Kids parental control app.
  • The company could be forced to allow the app or make other changes.

Google isn’t the only major phone platform owner to face Russian antitrust abuse claims.

Reuters reports that the country’s competition regulator, FAS, has determined Apple was abusing its control over the App Store when it blocked an updated version of Kaspersky Lab’s Safe Kids app. Apple allegedly used its absolute say over app submissions to limit competition from Kaspersky and others to iOS’ built-in Screen Time function, which combines parental control and wellbeing features.

It was “extremely important” for companies like Apple to establish “non-discriminatory conditions” for store access to ensure healthy competition, according to FAS deputy head Aleksey Dotsenko.

The watchdog said it would issue a “corrective order” to force compliance, although it didn’t hint at what that would entail. It could require that Apple reinstate the apps with features intact, or loosen its App Store policy.

We’ve asked Apple for comment, although it already said it would appeal the ruling.

Read more: How to set and change Google Play Parental Controls

The situation may not be as clear cut as Russian officials have described. Apple rejected or demanded changes to apps like Safe Kids after determining that they threatened privacy and security by using Mobile Device Management, a tool normally reserved for businesses rather than kids. The profiles could be misused to install malware, Apple said at the time.

However, developers also accused Apple of giving them little warning or explanation when asking them to rework their apps. In some cases, they argued that Apple was effectively asking them to change business models on short notice.

Whether or not Apple has to comply, the decision comes at a bad time for the tech giant. The European Commission is currently investigating Apple for antitrust issues, including its control of the App Store, while Congress has its own competition concerns. Apple is under more pressure to change than before, and decisions like Russia’s might not leave it much choice.

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