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A UK regulator appears to have discovered, but then redacted, that Google has been paying Apple search revenues generated through Chrome in order to discourage it from launching a rival system.
Apple has regularly been rumored to be working on its own search engine to rival Google. It appears it could be in the company’s interest to not do so.
According to The Register, Google has been paying Apple a portion of the revenues it gets from people searching via the Google Chrome iOS app. This is over and above the officially acknowledged search revenues that Google pays, and it’s reportedly what has concerned the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The CMA has not stated this, and The Register‘s report is based on UK regulator documents released in June 2021. Those documents featured redacted information, and the presumption that the publication has made, is that what has been removed are references to Chrome on iOS.
“Apple receives a significant share of revenue from Google Search traffic on Safari and [x] on iOS devices,” says one paragraph in the CMA report.
It’s not clear why the UK regulator would not disclose what it has presumably uncovered during its investigation, but there are three sections where it does so. They include one about why this is all a concern for the CMA.
“Given this revenue share, when [x] or Safari is successful in competing for an iOS user, rather than winning a full share of the search traffic revenue it only wins a partial share (ie the revenue to which it was not previously entitled),” says the CMA. “These revenue sharing arrangements therefore dampen incentives for competition between browsers on iOS.”
Whatever the revenue sharing actually comes from, the CMA argues that the money means Apple has greater incentive to keep to the current situation instead of creating a rival.
There is no detail concerning how much Google may be paying Apple because of Google Chrome. However, it has previously been reported that the publicly-known deal about being the default search engine on iPhones is likely to mean Google pays Apple as much as $15 billion annually.
Neither Google nor Apple have commented.