Apple is under formal antitrust probe in Russia

The investigation follows a Kaspersky Lab complaint for unfair competition in iOS Apps Market

The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) said in a statement earlier this week that it had initiated a case against Apple over its abuse of its dominant position in the market of iOS applications, responding to a complaint by Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity provider.

"Having studied all the materials, the FAS concluded that Apple's actions, involving applying undefined software requirements to developers and rejecting software versions that have been previously distributed in the App Store, showcase Apple's abuse of its dominant position in the iOS application distribution market," the FAS said, adding that the hearing will be held on 13 September.

According to FAS Apple's unjustified rejection of a version of the Kaspersky Safe Kids (KSK) parental control program had resulted in the next version of the KSK losing a "substantial part of its functionality." The regulator also points out that the timing of Apple’s objection followed the introduction of its own Sreen Time feature, aimed to be functioning as a parental control program too. The FAS stressed, citing media, that Kaspersky Lab and 11 more developers had faced functionality deviations or restrictions over Screen Time launch.

Asked about the Russian investigation, Apple referred Reuters to an 28 April statement in which it said it had recently removed several parental control apps from its App Store because they “put users’ privacy and security at risk.” According to the company several of these apps were using a “highly invasive” technology called Mobile Device Management (MDM) and that its use in a consumer-focused app was a violation of App Store policies.

In turn, Kaspersky claims Apple’s App Store guidelines allowed for a limited use of MDM, but that it was not clear how to obtain Apple’s permission to do so. It also said the requirements reduced the competitiveness of third party developers.

Russia’s FAS has shown itself to be relatively alacritous at handling big tech antitrust complaints - most notably slapping Google with an order against bundling its services with Android back in 2015, a few months after local search giant Yandex had filed a complaint. It took the European Union’s competition regulator several more years before arriving at a similar conclusion vis-a-vis Google’s competition-blocking Android bundling.

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