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Indian buyers queue up outside an Apple store after the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max smartphones went on sale across both online and offline retail stores in India, at Aptronix in Mumbai's Lower Parel on Sept. 27, 2019. (IANS photo)

NEW DELHI – The Competition Commission of India Dec. 31 ordered a thorough anti-trust investigation into Apple over its App Store business practices.

The order came at a time when the Indian watchdog is fighting the same battle with Google over its Play Store policies that may hamper third-party app developers and the entire ecosystem.

"The third-party app stores are not allowed to be listed on Apple's App Store as the developer guidelines as well as agreement prohibits app developers from offering such services... These restrictions imposed by Apple forecloses the market for app stores for iOS for potential app distributors," the 20-page order read.

According to the CCI, prima facie, the relevant market for the examination of app store policies of Apple would be 'market for app stores for iOS in India'.

"It is noted that Apple makes it mandatory to use Apple's proprietary in-app purchase system for distribution of paid digital content and it charges app developers commission of up to 30 percent on subscriptions bought through the mandatory IAP.

"Further, Apple prohibits app developers from informing app users about the ability to purchase on the web. Thus, Apple prohibits app developers to include a button/link in their apps which take/steer the user to a third party payment processing solution other than Apple's IAP," said the CCI order.

"This prima facie results in denial of market access for the potential app distributors/app store developers in violation of competition norms."

Apple was yet to comment on the CCI order.

Apple had faced anti-trust investigations by the European Union and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over its app store policies.

In the Google Play Store investigation, the CCI has told Karnataka High Court that there will not be any precipitative action on the matter.

Amid the growing debate over its Play Store rules, Google earlier this week filed a writ in the high court, asking for more time to reply to the anti-trust investigation by the CCI.

The plea for interim relief was filed by the Alliance of Digital India Foundation in the CCI in October.

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