Germany’s competition regulator commenced a probe against Apple to review its rules on tracking third-party apps, raising suspicions it gives its own apps and services preferential treatment and hinders other companies.

Bundeskartellamt stated it would examine Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Framework, which the company introduced for third-party apps in April 2021.

The framework establishes certain conditions for user tracking as defined by Apple and requires users to opt-in to tracking.

Advertisers or app publishers use tracking to display targeted advertising on websites and apps, or other purposes, which are vital to business models particularly if the apps are free of charge and rely on advertising.

However, preliminary findings indicated while users could restrict the use of their data for personalised advertising on third-party apps, Apple was not subject to the rules of the framework.

Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt explained the regulator welcomed business models which employ data and give users a choice of how their data is used, but warned a company like Apple, which is in the position to set rules for its ecosystem and its app store, should make pro-competitive rules.

“We have reason to doubt that this is the case when we see that Apple’s rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself. This would allow Apple to preference its own offers or impede other companies.”

Germany opened a separate probe against Apple’s market dominance in June 2021, accusing the company of creating a digital ecosystem centred around its iPhone and iOS.