UK CMA’s mobile ecosystems report is a step toward improving choice for consumers; swift independent enforcement is still necessary

Consumers today face many barriers that prevent them from accessing and using a variety of software options on their devices. We welcome efforts by the UK Competition and Market Authority (CMA) to better understand the situations faced by mobile device users and to address them.

Earlier today, we submitted our comments to the CMA’s interim report on mobile ecosystems. Their assessment adds to a growing body of work by regulators on the systemic barriers that prevent meaningful consumer choice and stifle innovation online. As these reports show, all devices run on operating systems, and concentration of operating systems and affiliated software harms developers and consumers alike. In addition, the CMA’s report is the first to chronicle the importance of web compatibility and the harmful network effects that result when popular software apps are incompatible with all browsers. It also dives into the importance of browser engines to a healthy internet ecosystem that is decentralized and open.

The report’s findings serve as a blueprint for regulators looking at these issues around the world. At the same time, we believe the CMA should go further in some crucial areas, most notably acting upon the need for swift independent enforcement rather than leaving it to the yet-to-be-established Digital Markets Unit (DMU).

Our submission focuses on the following key themes:

  • Ex-ante regulation should complement, and not replace, traditional enforcement – Mozilla strongly endorses efforts to reform competition law for the modern age in the form of ex-ante frameworks like the DMU in the UK and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in the EU. However, if the harms identified in this report are not addressed imminently, it will cause irreparable damage to innovation and competition. We recommend that the CMA exercise its independent enforcement powers in certain sectors (such as the mobile browser market) and suggest measures that can limit the more egregious practices in the space.
  • Privacy and competition are complementary – We welcome the improved cooperation between regulators, such as the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). We urge the CMA to work towards creating a high baseline of privacy protections and an even playing field for the open web. As we’ve said before, Chrome should be allowed to join all other major browsers to limit the use of third-party cookies for pervasive web tracking. At the same time, no dominant platform should be permitted to self-preference or indiscriminately share data internally without meaningful consumer consent. All platforms should also develop and deploy technologies relevant to the web ecosystem via formal processes at open standard bodies to ensure their privacy and competition aspects are adequately vetted in a neutral forum.
  • Importance of consumer experience and need for more evidence based research – The CMA recognises that interventions such as choice screens have not led to meaningful changes in the market share of impacted services, highlighting the importance of consumer experience in the choices that users make on their devices. We recommend that the CMA invest in  public research, more robust metrics collection, and other insights to explore remedies to meaningfully improve competition.

We look forward to working with the CMA over the coming months, both in the lead up to the final report and beyond, to see the insights from the report translate into regulatory action, increased consumer choice and a better, more interoperable internet.

More on this