Australian watchdog slams Apple and Google's app market power

The ACCC has provided a number of suggestions the companies could adopt to address its concerns

The Australian competition watchdog has released a report analysing the dominance of the Apple and Google app stores in Australia and included a number of suggestions the companies could adopt.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Digital Platform Services Inquiry report found that the tech giants’ app stores have “significant market power in the distribution of mobile apps in Australia”. The issues it underlined include the terms of access to app marketplaces for developers, payment arrangements, the effectiveness of self-regulation, and the use of data.

As part of its findings, the ACCC has suggested a number of measures that the tech giants could introduce, such as allowing consumers to rate and review all apps, giving consumers the ability to change any pre-installed apps on their device, and ensuring app developers can provide consumers with information about alternative payment options.

The ACCC will revisit the issues raised in the report during the course of its five-year Digital Platform Services Inquiry and will take into account any steps taken by Apple and Google to address the concerns identified.

 “Apple and Google’s stores are the gateways between consumers and app developers, and it’s true that they provide considerable benefits to both groups. But there are significant issues with how this market is operating,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.

“The ACCC will also take into account significant proposals and law changes in other countries which have identified similar concerns. Regulation may be required if Apple and Google fail to take steps to address the concerns identified.”

Meanwhile, the EU’s antitrust regulators are reportedly set to charge Apple this week with blocking rivals on its App Store, according to Reuters. This could be the EU’s first antitrust charge against the tech giant and might lead to a fine of as much as 10% of the company’s global revenue. This comes after Spotify filed a complaint against Apple to the European Commission in 2019.

Plus, earlier this month, the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee formally approved a report seeking to curb big tech market dominance. The report calls for regulatory changes that could lead to a shake-up of the tech industry, such as the requirement that all software and services are made compatible with competitors and imposing structural separations of vendor platforms.

In the UK, Epic Games officially filed a complaint in March with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to support the watchdog’s investigation into Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour. Epic alleges that Apple’s behaviour and rules governing the distribution of apps and payments processing constitute a “clear violation of the UK Competition Act of 1998”.

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