Apple faces yet another regulator investigation into whether its 30% App Store commission is unfair for developers, this time in the UK

apple tim cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

  • The UK’s competition regulator said on Thursday it has started investigating Apple. 
  • Apple charges developers a commission of up to 30% on purchases customers make via App Store apps.
  • Developers have complained the commission is unfair and anti-competitive.
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Britain’s competition regulator said on Thursday it has opened an investigation into Apple after complaints that the iPhone maker’s terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anti-competitive.

The probe will consider if Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on its devices in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

Payment policies related to Apple’s App Store have for long drawn complaints from app developers. It charges a commission of up to 30% from developers on the value of transactions or any time a consumer buys their app.

The iPhone maker said it will work with the regulator.

“The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place – applied fairly and equally to all developers – to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent,” Apple said in a statement.

The company is also being investigated on similar grounds by the Dutch competition authorities, who are nearing a draft decision, Reuters reported last month.

Last year, the European Commission too had opened a probe into the iPhone maker over the App Store commission fee.

“Complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice – potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps – warrant careful scrutiny,” CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said.

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SEC chair nominee says he will evaluate payment for order flow practice at the heart of the GameStop saga

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 30: Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. Gensler and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White testified and took questions from Senators during the hearing titled, "Mitigating Systemic Risk in Financial Markets through Wall Street Reforms." (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gary Gensler.

  • Gary Gensler is being considered to be the next chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. 
  • He said the agency under his watch would at look ensuring investors get “best execution” for their trades and whether payment for order flow provides that. 
  • Gensler’s confirmation hearing comes in the backdrop of questions about the “gamification” of trading for retail investors. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Gary Gensler, the nominee to be the next head of the Securities and Exchange Commission said the agency under his watch would review issues surrounding protection and fairness for retail investors. 

There’s been a “gamification” in trading for retail investors, and in recent months there has been “unprecedented volatility” in many stocks. This has been seen most notably in video-game retailer GameStop, said Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee during a virtual confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Gensler, who was nominated by President Joe Biden to be the new head of the SEC, said the agency should review, among others, a practice by some trading firms to pay third-party brokers to execute customer orders.

The SEC should examine questions over “how to ensure that customers still get best execution in the face of payment for order flow,” Gensler said during a Tuesday virtual confirmation hearing held by the Senate Banking Committee.

Payment for order flow refers to a practice of compensating brokerage firms to route trading orders from their customers to certain market makers to execute the trades rather than directly to an exchange. The practice has raised questions over if it creates a potential conflict of interest and if it might lead to sub-par execution for customers.

Payment for order flow was thrust into the spotlight this year after Robinhood in late January placed trading restrictions temporarily on some popular stocks, including GameStop.

After a massive short squeeze on GameStop that sent its share price soaring, trading app Robinhood temporarily restricted trading in a handful of volatile stocks at the center of the Reddit-driven frenzy.

Public interest in market structure and payment for order flow has been “reignited” by the recent trading in GameStop shares, Senator Mark Warner from Virginia said during the hearing.

Last month, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on January’s short-squeeze episode. Legislators heard testimonies from Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, famed GameStop retail investor Keith “Roaring Kitty” Gill, and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin. 

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TikTok users have been warned by regulators about taking risky stock tips from influencers

TikTok
Many young people have flocked to TikTok for investing advice.

  • The UK financial regulator has warned TikTok users about taking stock tips from the app.
  • The Financial Conduct Authority warned about “promising high-return investments,” per BBC News
  • One user posted videos with names like: “Only future millionaires can see this video!!” 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

TikTok users were being warned about risky investment advice on the social app, BBC News reported.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority told investors should be wary of any advice promising high-return investments, the report said. 

“There are risks with taking unregulated investment advice and we engage with social media platforms to have pages which breach our regulations taken down,” an FCA spokesperson told Cristina Criddle, a BBC tech reporter.

Social media has been flooded with investment advice in the last few weeks, as Reddit’s Wall Street Bets subreddit banded together and fueled sky-high returns on GameStop, AMC, and other investments.

In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal financial regulators have reportedly been discussing the trading frenzy. Lawmakers from both parties have called for investigations into volatile trading. The SEC said last week that it was “closely monitoring and evaluating” the situation.

On TikTok, users were also posting about GameStop, AMC, and other Reddit-fueled stocks. The #investing hashtag on TikTok had about 1.6 billion views, and GameStop was searched about 600 million times in a single day on the app, according to MarketWatch

Paxful, a cryptocurrency trading platform, studied how TikTok users gave investment advice, as BBC News first reported. About one in seven videos about financial investments posted on TikTok were misleading and asked users to make financial decisions without carrying disclaimers, according to Paxful

“More than half (52%) of the influencer accounts that we analyzed had posted at least one misleading video,” Paxful said in a post, “Influencer Investors.”

One TikTok user with about 130,000 followers posted videos titled “This stock will make you rich” and “Only future millionaires can see this video!!” The videos singled out specific stocks. In the videos, the user quickly flashed the companies’ balance and earnings sheets, along with their most recent stock quotes. 

“Consumers should be wary of adverts and advice online and on social media promising high-return investments, and should always do further research on the product they are considering,” an FCA spokeswoman told BBC News.

In December, Insider spoke with five TikTok creators focused on investing.

 

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