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UK launches antitrust probe into Apple’s App Store

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UK launches antitrust probe into Apple's App Store

British antitrust regulators launched a probe of Apple’s App Store Thursday after developers complained that the tech titan’s policies put them in a chokehold.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said it’s investigating concerns about the terms Apple forces on developers who want to distribute apps through the store, as well as complaints about the steep commission Apple charges for purchases made through iPhone and iPad apps.

The investigation will examine whether Apple has a “dominant position” in the UK’s app market and, if so, whether it imposes “unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers,” officials said.

“Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway,” Andrea Coscelli, the Competition and Markets Authority’s chief executive, said in a statement. “So, complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice — potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps — warrant careful scrutiny.”

The probe adds to mounting scrutiny of the iron fist with which Apple runs its App Store.

The concerns were thrust into the spotlight last year when Epic Games, the company behind the popular video game “Fortnite,” sued Apple over the 30 percent cut it takes from in-app purchases. Apple pulled “Fortnite” from the App Store after Epic launched a payment system to get around the fees.

Epic’s lawsuit was supported by fellow tech giants such as Facebook, Match Group, and Spotify, which filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union last year.

The Competition and Markets Authority said it “continues to coordinate closely” with the EU’s European Commission, which has already opened three investigations into the App Store. British regulators noted that their probe is only in its early stages and has not reached a conclusion on whether Apple is breaking the law.

Apple said it would work with UK officials as they conduct their investigation. The Cupertino, California-based company has defended its App Store policies by saying they apply evenly to every developer who uses the platform.

“The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place — applied fairly and equally to all developers — to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent,” Apple said in a statement Thursday.

Apple warned investors in its annual report last fall that its bottom line could take a hit if it’s forced to reduce its commissions on App Store sales.

Apple shares were trading down about 0.2 percent in premarket trading Thursday at $121.77 as of 7:44 a.m.

With Post Wires

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

Soho House — the London-based group of posh private clubs — is planning to go public across the pond, a new report says.

The British company filed confidential paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of more than $3 billion, the UK’s Sky News reported Thursday.

The filing comes about three years after the iconic chain last mulled plans for an IPO in 2018, according to reports from the time.

The latest bid has been in the works since at least February, when The Times of London reported that Soho House had hired Wall Street stalwarts JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as it looked to take advantage of the frothy US stock market.

The company raised a batch of private funding last summer but decided to pursue more capital through the public market as it expands, according to Sky News.

Soho House declined to comment Thursday.

Soho House runs 27 clubs in 10 countries, including three in New York City, along with event venues and a group of co-working spaces dubbed “Soho Works.

The chain’s business has reportedly held up through the coronavirus crisis. Just about 10,000 of its 110,000 members — whose ranks include Prince Harry and supermodel Kate Moss — canceled their memberships even as the pandemic shuttered its venues, the Financial Times reported last year.

While Soho House shares its name with the London neighborhood where its first club opened in 1995, the company is mostly owned by billionaire American investor Ron Burkle.

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

Tesla chief Elon Musk expressed support for COVID-19 vaccines despite previously raising questions about their safety and saying he wouldn’t get the jab himself.

The world’s second-richest man tried to clear up his vaccine views on Twitter after drawing ire last month for his vocal skepticism about two-dose regimens.

“To be clear, I do support vaccines in general & covid vaccines specifically,” Musk tweeted Wednesday. “The science is unequivocal.”

The 49-year-old electric-car tycoon sparked controversy last month by saying there was “some debate” about the safety of the second of two shots people must get to complete their Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations.

Musk claimed there had been “quite a few negative reactions” to the second doses as he encouraged elderly and immunocompromised people to take the vaccines.

While allergic reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine have been more frequent after the second dose than the first, they’re still rare overall with just 4.5 incidents reported for every million doses administered, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

Musk acknowledged Wednesday that allergic reactions happen “in very rare cases,” adding that they’re “easily addressed with an EpiPen.”

In September, the Tesla “Technoking” told The New York Times that neither he nor his family would get a vaccine because “I’m not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.”

Musk ended up contracting what he called a “moderate case” of the virus in November, comparing his symptoms to a “minor cold.”

In response to a Twitter reply, Musk indicated that he decided not to get a vaccine because someone else could benefit more from the shot given that he already had some immunity to COVID.

Last month wasn’t the first time Musk has stoked controversy with his opinions on the pandemic.

He wrongly predicted last year that there would be “probably close to zero new cases” in the US by the end of April 2020 and called coronavirus lockdown measures “fascist” after fighting to keep Tesla’s California factory open.

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits stubbornly jumped again last week even amid hopes that the labor market was getting back on track, the feds said Thursday.

Last week’s 744,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to about 79 million — a number more than triple the size of North Korea’s population.

New filings have ticked up for two consecutive weeks after dropping below the pre-coronavirus record of 695,000 in mid-March.

The latest total once again defied the predictions of economists, who expected 690,000 claims last week as vaccinations added fuel to the nation’s economic reopening, according to Wrightson ICAP.

“The biggest reason to temper optimism is a negative turn in the course of the pandemic, including new variants” of the coronavirus, Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.

Weekly jobless claims have bounced up and down in recent weeks while struggling to stay below the pre-pandemic record after a year of painfully high readings.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out the volatility, also ticked up to 723,750 a week after reaching its lowest level since March 2020, when the pandemic first gutted the American economy.

The latest US Department of Labor data came a week after a blowout jobs report that showed the economy adding 916,000 jobs in March.

“To put this week’s level of claims in perspective, a year ago this shocking number topped 6 million,” said Mark Hamick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “It wasn’t until August that it consistently stayed below 1 million. So, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

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