The Italian Competition Authority has opened an investigation against the companies Apple Inc., Apple Distribution International Ltd, Apple Italia S.r.l. to ascertain the existence of an alleged abuse of a dominant position in the market for platforms for the online distribution of apps for users of the iOS operating system.

In particular, starting from April 2021 Apple has adopted a privacy policy, for third-party app developers only, more restrictive than the one that the company applies to itself.

The different treatment is mainly based on the characteristics of the prompt that appears to users to acquire consent to the tracking of their "browsing" data on the web and on the tools adopted to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

In fact, Apple only requires competitors to use a request prompt for consent in a position of greater prominence than that of the option to deny consent and uses a linguistic formulation that dissuasively tracks.

In addition, third-party developers and advertisers appear to be at a disadvantage in terms of the quality and detail of the data made available by Apple and related to the effectiveness of advertising campaigns on their applications.

This happens because of the technical features of the programming interface they can access - SkadNetwork - which appears much less effective than Apple Ads Attribution, the tool that Apple adopts for itself.

The availability of data relating to both user profiling and the measurement of the effectiveness of advertising campaigns - while respecting the regulations protecting privacy - are essential elements for the attractiveness of advertising spaces sold by app developers and purchased by advertisers.

For this reason, according to the Authority, Apple's alleged discriminatory conduct may cause a decline in advertising revenues from third-party advertisers, to the benefit of its commercial division; reduce the entry and/or prevent competitors from remaining in the app development and distribution market; benefit their apps and, consequently, mobile devices and the Apple iOS operating system.

For the Antitrust, the alleged reduction of competition in the relevant markets and the consequent strengthening of Apple's digital eco-system could reduce incentives to develop innovative apps and hinder the transition of users to competing digital ecosystems.