Apple argues UK competition watchdog had "no power" to launch probe

FILE PHOTO: Logo of U.S. technology company Apple is seen in Basel

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - Technology giant Apple on Friday told a London tribunal that Britain's competition watchdog had "no power" to launch a probe into its mobile browsers because it did so too late.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened a full investigation in November into cloud gaming and mobile browsers over concerns about restrictions by iPhone-maker Apple, as well as by Google.

Apple filed an appeal in January at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London and argues the investigation is "invalid".

Its lawyer Timothy Otty said on Friday that the market investigation should by law have been opened last June at the same time as the CMA published a report on mobile ecosystems, which found the two tech giants had an "effective duopoly".

He added in court filings that Apple has "suffered serious prejudice" as a result of the CMA's decision, having "had to repeatedly divert management time and technical resources away from its business activities".

However, the CMA's lawyer James Eadie said the watchdog had complied with the legal time limits, because it initially decided not to open an investigation in December 2021.

He argued in court filings that a ruling that the investigation is invalid would cause "significant prejudice to the public interest … which outweighs any burden shouldered by Apple".

"A finding of invalidity would terminate the market investigation and leave unaddressed the CMA's concerns about the lack of competition for mobile browsers and cloud gaming," Eadie added.

Friday's hearing took place on the same day that the CMA said it was extending the deadline for its analysis and review into Apple's terms and conditions for app developers until May.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Christina Fincher)