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Germany Puts Apple on Watch

FILE - The logo of Apple is illuminated at a store in the city center in Munich, Germany, Dec. 16, 2020.
FILE - The logo of Apple is illuminated at a store in the city center in Munich, Germany, Dec. 16, 2020.

BERLIN - Germany's anti-cartel watchdog said Wednesday it had placed US computing giant Apple under closer surveillance for any possible abuse of its market position.

The Federal Cartel Office said it had determined Apple to be a company of "paramount significance for competition across markets", a move that would allow it to "take action against and effectively prohibit anti-competitive practices."

Apple joins Amazon, Google parent Alphabet and Meta, the group behind Facebook, in falling under reinforced monitoring made possible by the German Competition Act.

The act, which came into force in January 2021, allows the cartel authority to intervene earlier, particularly against the world's tech giants.

Products like the hugely successful iPhone meant Apple presided over a "wide-ranging digital ecosystem which is of great importance to competition" in Germany and worldwide, Federal Cartel Office chief Andreas Mundt said in a statement.

The group controlled the "access to the ecosystem and Apple customers" through software products such as the iOS operating system and its app store, Mundt said.

This "outstanding position" was backed by the US group's significant financial resources, broad user base and the strength of the Apple brand, the competition authority said.

Apple also had "privileged access to data relevant for competition" via its network of products, the agency said.

All in all, the group had a "position of power" that created the potential to act in ways "not sufficiently controlled by competition".

In practice, the Federal Cartel Office was also looking to see whether app tracking rules "could favor Apple's own offers" but said that "no decision has been taken on initiating further proceedings".

The agency said last week it was examining if it needed to place Apple's rival Microsoft under increased surveillance for anti-competitive practices.