Apple, App Store again face accusations of anticompetitive behavior

Apple is facing further scrutiny over whether it's using its hold on the App Store to hurt competitors' products.

A Saturday report in The New York Times says that in the last year, Apple has targeted 11 of the 17 most downloaded third-party apps designed to help phone users limit screen time or oversee their children's phone use. Apple either removed the apps from the App Store outright or restricted them in some way, the Times says.

The iPhone maker introduced its own screen-time and parental-controls features last June, when it unveiled iOS 12, the most recent major update to Apple's mobile operating system. And on Friday, CEO Tim Cook discussed screen addiction at the Time 100 Summit in New York.

The Times report says the makers of two of the App Store's most popular parental control apps filed a complaint Thursday with the European Union's competition office, with one saying Apple compelled it to alter its app in ways that made it less effective than Apple's parental controls.

Last month, music-streaming service Spotify filed a complaint about Apple with European Union regulators, saying the Apple Music purveyor uses its grip on the App Store to stifle innovation, weaken competition and unfairly tax its rivals. Apple called Spotify's claims "misleading."

The iPhone maker didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on the Saturday report by the Times, but a spokeswoman for the company told the paper that Apple treats all apps the same, including those from competitors. The apps in question were called out because they could grab too much data from a user's device, she said, and the timing had nothing to do with the release of Apple's screen-time and parental controls features.

"Our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible," she told the Times.