MercadoLibre files complaints against Apple for 'anti-competitive practices'

AM hair salon owner, Andrea Manoli, is pictured using Mercado Pago app, at her store in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

SAO PAULO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - E-commerce giant MercadoLibre Inc (MELI.O) said on Monday it has filed complaints against Apple Inc (AAPL.O) with antitrust regulators in Brazil and Mexico for anti-competitive practices, accusing the U.S.-based firm of abusing what it called a monopoly in the distribution of apps for its devices.

In a statement, the e-commerce giant said that Apple had imposed a series of restrictions on the distribution of digital goods and in-app purchases, including banning apps from distributing third-party digital goods and services such as movies, music, video games, books and written content.

In the complaint, the South American company criticized the California tech giant for requiring developers who offer digital goods or services within apps to use Apple's own payment system and stopping them from redirecting buyers to their websites. "This clearly harms its competitors, unless they are integrated digital giants themselves, who may even benefit from this artificial tilt towards integrated ecosystems," Jacobo Cohen Imach, senior vice president of legal and public affairs said in a statement. MercadoLibre said the complaints against Apple had been filed before Brazil's antitrust watchdog CADE and Mexico's Federal Telecommunications Institute and Federal Economic Competition Commission.

The regulators could not immediately be reached for comment. Asked if they would consider a similar move against Alphabet Inc's Google (GOOGL.O), MercadoLibre's antitrust director Paolo Franco Benedetti said in an interview that the company was not fully comfortable with Google's policies, but is focusing on the complaints against Apple right now. Benedetti said that Google's app store had less strict rules than Apple's.

Apple declined to comment in Brazil and did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment in the United States. Google did not have a comment on the matter.

Apple's policies have been challenged in nearly every corner of the world over the past few years.

In a U.S. court trial last year over similar allegations, a judge found that Apple had not violated antitrust law in part because its rules led to security benefits for users that outweighed any harm to appmakers.

But the ruling is being appealed, and a global resolution on the concerns appears distant. Nasdaq-listed MercadoLibre is one of Latin America's largest companies, with a market capitalization of $47.53 billion, according to Refinitiv data. Cohen Imach said the e-commerce giant tried "unsuccessfully" to negotiate with Apple. "Undoubtedly, we would have preferred to avoid a conflict with the world's largest company; however, we are convinced that we are doing the right thing for the future of competition," he said.

Additional reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Paresh Dave, editing by Deepa Babington

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