Apple's web app crackdown sparks EU investigation

Apple's web app crackdown sparks EU investigation
Earlier this month, users in the European Union noticed that Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) weren't functioning properly in iOS 17.4. Initially perceived as a bug, it was later revealed that Apple's move was a response to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Reportedly, concerns around security and privacy led Apple to remove the Home Screen web apps feature in the EU. This decision, however, raised suspicions, and now, according to Financial Times (via Apple Insider), the EU is taking the initial steps towards a formal investigation into Apple. The issue revolves around Apple cutting off access to applications bypassing its app store, and the move has triggered scrutiny from the EU's competition regulators.

They have reportedly sent inquiries to developers to assess the impact of Apple's decision to disable PWAs in the EU. Apple has stated its intention to disable access to these web apps starting next month. The decision to cut off PWAs is framed as an effort to comply with the DMA, citing security and privacy concerns with browsers other than its own Safari.

However, it is worth noting that this move also blocks a channel for developers looking to circumvent the 30% commission fees charged by Apple for purchases through its App Store. The European Commission acknowledged that it is examining the compliance of all gatekeepers, including Apple, and specifically looking into the issue of progressive web apps.

In response to questions from the Financial Times, the European Commission said: 

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While Apple declined to comment on the ongoing investigation, it referred to a previous statement expressing regret over any impact on developers and users. The EU's increased scrutiny on Apple extends beyond the PWA issue, as the EU is set to impose its first fine, estimated at around €500 (~$543) million, for alleged violations related to access to its music streaming services.

The investigation into web apps aligns with the March 6 deadline for companies to adhere to the terms of the DMA, a significant legislation addressing the dominance of big tech companies. This legislation empowers the EU to impose fines of up to 10% of annual turnover, escalating to 20% for repeat offenses. In response to the DMA, Apple has recently introduced changes to its iOS in Europe, allowing users to download apps from alternative sources and access different payment systems.

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