Biden administration says Apple and Google app stores are stifling competition
The Biden administration is calling out the Apple and Google app stores for stifling competition. A new report issued on Wednesday by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it had investigated competitive conditions in the mobile app ecosystem and found that “there is no level playing field, which is detrimental to consumers.” developers and consumers. The report also made several policy suggestions that could improve the ecosystem and open up competition.
The investigation was launched as part of a 2021 Executive Order on competition and involved consultations with various industry stakeholders in private industry, civil society and academia, the NTIA said. It also included a review of more than 150 comments submitted in response to a request for public comment last April.
The report sums up what industry observers already know: that the innovations that make mobile phones and downloadable apps possible have begun to be overshadowed by market entry barriers faced by developers, excessive and restrictive rules, overly complicated app review process and the hefty fees developers are forced to pay for access to consumer devices.
“Our review suggests that the mobile app store model has provided a variety of benefits for both app developers and users, but has also created suboptimal conditions of competition,” the report states. “The policies that shoppingmode Apple and shoppingmode Google have in their own mobile app stores have created unnecessary barriers and costs for app developers, ranging from access fees to functional restrictions that favor some apps over others. These obstacles impose costs on companies and organizations that offer new technologies: applications lack features, development and deployment costs are higher, customer relationships are damaged, and many applications fail to reach a large number of users. .
Both shoppingmode Apple and shoppingmode Google disagreed with the report’s findings. ( The AP printed its comments here. ) For the most part, shoppingmode Apple ‘s position was the same as always: that its rules are focused on providing safety and consumer protection. Meanwhile, shoppingmode Google app notes 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 various areas can be improved to boost competition. The report suggests, for example, that there should be a more transparent application review process; limits on pre-installed apps and auto preferences; rule prohibitions that restrict other means of installing applications, such as side-installing; support for third party payments; support for links to developer websites from applications; and more.
He also said that tech giants should be prohibited from using sensitive business data acquired from third-party developers to help launch their own competing apps, a practice so common at Apple that it has even been dubbed “sherloking ” after one famous example.
However, the recommendations are just that: ideas, not policies. The report only helps solidify and clarify the Biden administration’s position on the app store competition. As the report notes, “Congress should enact laws” and “relevant agencies should consider measures” to limit anticompetitive conduct. It also suggests that there are areas that warrant further study, such as “choice screens” (which some argue only offer the perception of choice), and whether or not laws should prohibit pre-installation of apps or other agreements between Apple and Google and device manufacturers and operators. .
In other words, any real action is still in the hands of regulators and lawmakers, as was the case in the months leading up to the report’s release.
The Biden administration, thus far, has had mixed success in holding the tech giants accountable. On one hand, the Department of Justice is now suing Google shoppingmode for its monopoly on digital advertising, while on the other, Meta is winning against the FTC to go ahead with its latest acquisition. The Department of Justice has not yet sued Apple , though it has been building a case and weighing Epic Games ‘ antitrust lawsuit . Meanwhile, record spending on lobbying from tech giants including shoppingmode Apple and shoppingmode Google, has helped block bipartisan bills that would slow the spread of anti-competitive behavior in Congress.
President Biden, of course, already made his position on big tech abuses known, in an op-ed published in The Wall St. Journal earlier this month. As for the competition, he stated that there was still more to do.
“When technology platforms get big enough, many find ways to promote their own products while excluding or hurting competitors, or charging competitors a fortune to sell on their platform,” he wrote. “My vision for our economy is one in which everyone, small and medium-sized businesses, mom-and-pop stores, entrepreneurs, can compete on equal terms with the largest companies.”