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Biden administration says Apple and Google app stores are stifling competition • businessroundups.org

by Ana Lopez
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The Biden administration is call Apple and Google’s app stores for stifling competition. A new reportreleased Wednesday by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said it had examined the competitive conditions in the mobile app ecosystem and found that it “is not a level playing field, which is detrimental to developers and consumers”. The report also made several policy suggestions that could improve the ecosystem and boost competition.

The study was initiated as part of a 2021 executive order on competition and involved consultations with various industry stakeholders in the private sector, civil society and academia, NTIA said. It also included a review of more than 150 responses submitted in April in response to a request for public comment.

The report summarizes what industry viewers already know: that the innovations enabled by mobile phones and downloadable apps are beginning to be overshadowed by the barriers to market entry faced by developers, the excessive and restrictive regulations, the complicated app review process and the significant commissions developers must pay to access consumer devices.

Our research suggests that the mobile app store model has delivered a range of benefits for both app developers and users, but has also created competitive conditions that are not optimal. “The policies Apple and Google have in their own mobile app stores have created unnecessary barriers and costs for app developers, ranging from access fees to functional limitations that favor some apps over others. These obstacles come at a cost to companies and organizations that offer new technology: apps lack features, development and rollout costs are higher, customer relationships are damaged, and many apps do not reach a large number of users.”

Both Apple and Google disagreed with the report’s findings. (The AP has printed their comments here.) Apple’s position was largely the same as always: that the rules are aimed at providing safety and security for consumers. Google, meanwhile, points out that it offers more competition and choice. (Android, for example, already allows sideloading.)

In addition to summarizing the state of the market, the new report makes a variety of recommendations on how different areas can be improved to boost competition. For example, the report suggests that there should be a more transparent review process for apps; limits on pre-installed apps and self-preference; prohibition of rules that restrict other ways to install apps, such as sideloading; support for third-party payments; support for links to developer websites from within apps; and more.

It also said tech giants should not use confidential corporate data obtained from third-party developers to help launch their own competing apps — a practice so common at Apple, it’s even been called “sherlocking” after a famous example.

However, the recommendations are just that: ideas, not policies. The report only helps to solidify and clarify the Biden administration’s position on app store competition. As the report points out, “Congress should pass laws” and “relevant agencies should consider action” to limit anti-competitive behavior. It also suggests that there are areas that warrant further study, such as “choice screens” (which some argue only provide the perception of choice), and whether laws prohibit app pre-installation or other agreements between Apple and Google and device manufacturers and carriers. should prohibit. .

In other words, any real action is still in the hands of regulators and legislators, just as it was in the months leading up to the report’s release.

The Biden administration has so far seen mixed success in actually holding tech giants to account. On the one hand, the Justice Department is now suing Google for its digital advertising monopoly, while on the other hand, Meta is winning against the FTC to move forward with its latest acquisition. The DoJ has yet to sue Apple, though it has built a case and is cooperating in Epic Games’ antitrust case. Meanwhile, record lobby spending from tech giantsincluding Apple and Google, helped block bipartisan bills that would curb anti-competitive behavior in Congress.

President Biden has, of course, already made known his position on major technical abuses, in published an opinion piece in The Wall St. Journal earlier this month. As for the competition, he indicated that there was still more to do than necessary.

“When technology platforms get big enough, many find ways to promote their own products while excluding or penalizing competitors — or charging competitors a fortune to sell on their platform,” he wrote. “My vision for our economy is one where everyone – small and medium businesses, mom-and-pop stores, entrepreneurs – can compete on a level playing field with the biggest companies.”

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