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Facebook accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior in EU antitrust filing

Facebook is joining other high profile companies accusing Apple of antitrust behavior in the EU, and is claiming that Apple uses its App Store and array of operating systems to gain an unfair advantage over its competitors.

On Tuesday, Facebook submitted a formal complaint against Apple to the European Union regarding the Digital Service Act. The act is a proposed law that would curb the power of major corporations like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

The document, provided by the EU's competition watchdog, asks businesses if they have been subjected to anticompetitive behavior on large online platforms.

Facebook took the opportunity to highlight its grievances with Apple. The complaints were lodged in two areas: Facebook Gaming and Apple's upcoming plan to require a user's consent before a company could place ad trackers on their device.

Facebook alleges that the Facebook Gaming app has been "affected by unfair contractual terms and unfair practices imposed by Apple with respect to the App Store and on iOS more broadly."

Facebook Gaming was rolled out to iOS users in August after restructuring the app to comply with the App Store terms and conditions. Facebook was required to remove gameplay functionality as Apple does not allow third-party gaming platforms.

The same rule has prevented Microsoft and Google from bringing cloud-based gaming through xCloud and Google Stadia.

While true, other companies have found workarounds. GameClub, a primary competitor of Apple Arcade, offers an all-you-can-play subscription that costs $4.99 a month. Each game is individually hosted on the App Store, which complies with Apple's on-device gaming requirements.

Still, Facebook alleges that Apple is practicing anticompetitive behavior, alleging that, "It is well known that mobile games are the most lucrative category of mobile apps worldwide. A significant portion of Apple's mobile OS revenue comes from purchases of games distributed directly through the App Store, and purchases made from within those games."

"[By] prohibiting other developers from offering apps that enable consumers to access games not directly distributed through the App Store, Apple is ensuring that consumers on iOS can primarily purchase games and related services only from Apple, and not from other developers."

The second complaint did not specifically name Apple, but likely referenced an upcoming iOS 14 feature that would prevent developers from placing advertising trackers on a user's iPhone or iPad without a user's explicit consent.

Announced as a privacy feature, Apple's forthcoming iOS 14 will require users to choose whether or not to allow ad tracking. Facebook reportedly expects many users to refuse it and has grown concerned with potential revenue loss.

"We are particularly concerned about policy changes that may affect developers' ability to offer services that compete with the platform's own services," Facebook wrote in the filing. "For example, large operating system/app store platforms increasingly are imposing tight restrictions around developers' access to data and to combine data collected across different apps and websites."

Facebook claims that such actions could harm ad-supported online services. Furthermore, they are unsure whether or not a company like Apple would subject themselves to the same constraints or use the restrictions to give themselves a leg up on competitors.