Apple has long been accused of using its position as owner and curator of the only app store authorized on its own mobile platform to create a monopoly that eventually kills off competing apps. Most of those complaints, however, haven’t gone beyond just that but Apple has lately come under legislative or even legal scrutiny over that business practice. In at least one case in Russia, however, Apple was indeed formally charged and now found guilty of anti-competitive practices specifically in crippling third-party parental control apps in favor of its own built-in feature.
This isn’t the first time Apple has been hurled a legal challenge over its supposed conflict of interest in running the App Store. Developers often accuse the iPhone maker of changing App Store policies, often without warning, to justify a new position or favor a new first-party app or feature. Apple has recently announced a rather significant change to that system that would allow developers to formally question those policies but that may have been too late to save it from this Russian lawsuit.
Last year, software security company Kaspersky Labs filed a complaint against Apple with the Russian Federal Anti-monopoly Service or FAS, over the removal of the Kaspersky Safe Kids app that has been in the App Store for three years prior to the drama. It was also last year that Apple started cracking down on such parental control apps that used Mobile Device Management (MDM) functionality to implement such parental controls.
Apple’s reason was that MDM was supposed to be used for enterprise or business scenarios, not for third-party apps to limits kids’ use of the device. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t provide alternate APIs for these apps to use instead of MDM. Coincidentally, it was also around that time that Apple launched its own built-in Screen Time controls, which Kaspersky claimed to be the true but unstated reason for Apple’s new policy.
The FAS judged that Kaspersky’s complaint had merit and that Apple abused its dominant position to limit competition, at least in this specific instance. The anti-monopoly watchdog will issue an order for Apple to remedy the violation but not before Apple appeals the ruling first.