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Court overturns Apple's appeal of UK mobile markets probe

By Josh White

Date: Thursday 30 Nov 2023

Court overturns Apple's appeal of UK mobile markets probe

(Sharecast News) - The Court of Appeal has upheld the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) decision to initiate a market investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming.

In a unanimous decision, the court overturned a prior ruling by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) that suspended the CMA's investigation due to an appeal filed by Apple.

"This ruling gives the CMA the backing it needs to protect consumers and promote competition in the UK," said the CMA's chief executive, Sarah Cardell.

"As this judgement clearly states, the previous ruling by the CAT would have had 'serious consequences' for the CMA's ability to investigate potential breaches of the law.

"We launched this investigation over a year ago in order to make sure that UK consumers get the best services and apps on their mobile phones and that UK developers can invest in innovative new apps.

"We stand ready to reopen it when the legal process is complete."

The legal dispute stemmed from November 2022, when the CMA invoked its authority under the Enterprise Act to initiate a market investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming.

Apple contested the legality of that decision and filed an appeal with the CAT, which was heard on 10 March.

In its judgement on 31 March, the CAT ruled that the CMA did not possess the authority to initiate a market investigation reference if it previously decided against doing so during a market study on the same subject.

As a result, the CAT ordered the quashing of the CMA's market investigation reference.

In response to the CAT's decision, the CMA appealed, and the Court of Appeal issued its unanimous judgement this week.

The judgement determined that the CAT had misinterpreted the Enterprise Act, emphasising that such an interpretation, if not corrected, would have "serious consequences" for the CMA's role in promoting competition and safeguarding consumers.

The Court of Appeal asserted that the CMA's standalone power was accompanied by significant and essential public law safeguards, rejecting the notion of an "undertaking [being] entitled to be investigated once and only once".

In assessing the Enterprise Act in a broader context, the court stressed that the statute primarily aimed to foster competition and protect consumers - a perspective that it believed the tribunal had overlooked.

Reporting by Josh White for Sharecast.com.


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