In brief: Tracking-app maker Tile has filed an antitrust complaint with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. In a letter sent earlier this week, Tile accused Apple of making it harder for users to use its app while making it easier to use its tracking app FindMy.
In a letter, viewed by Financial Times, Tile’s legal counsel explains that in the past, the Tile app worked seamlessly with the company’s Bluetooth-enabled tracking fob. Once the device was paired with the app, users could immediately begin locating the hardware with no further steps involved. Tile claims that recently the tech giant has altered the functionality of its app at the iOS level.
“In the past twelve months, Apple has taken several steps to completely disadvantage Tile, including by making it more difficult for consumers to use our products and services,” Tile’s general counsel Kirsten Daru wrote in the letter.
Tile alleges the grievance stems from Apple changing the tracking permission’s “always allow” default setting to “off” for third-party apps. At the same time, the setting for FindMy is on by default when setting up the phone. Tile argues that the change conveniently comes at a time when Apple is getting ready to launch a rival tracking device, directly competing with its fobs.
“This [change to iOS] is particularly concerning because Apple’s actions come at the same time that Apple both launched a new FindMy app that competes even more directly with Tile and also began preparing for the launch of a competitive hardware product,” said Daru.
The move also coincides with the recent removal of Tile products from Apple’s retail stores.
When reached for comment, an Apple spokesperson said, “We strenuously deny the allegations of uncompetitive behaviour that Tile is waging against us. Consistent with the critical path we’ve been on for over a decade, last year we introduced further privacy protections that safeguard user location data. Tile doesn’t like those decisions, so instead of arguing the issue on its merits, they’ve instead decided to launch meritless attacks.”
The European Commission acknowledged that it had received the letter, but could not comment any further as it is considered an open investigation.
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