Australia’s competition watchdog has launched an inquiry into how Google and Apple run their app stores for Android and iOS devices.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in its latest action targeting digital platforms, on Tuesday announced it would be examining the app stores with a focus on how data is used and shared.
The ACCC will examine how Google and Apple link their own products in their app stores, what effect this has on competition, the competition between the stores, fees charged to businesses on the app stores, the transparency surrounding how apps are ranked and whether processes are in place to protect people from harmful apps.
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Mobile apps market under scrutiny [news release]
The ACCC will be examining the experiences of Australian consumers, developers, suppliers and others in a new report scrutinising mobile app stores.
Issues to be examined include the use and sharing of data by apps, the extent of competition between Google and Apple’s app stores, and whether more pricing transparency is needed in Australia’s mobile apps market.
Consumers are invited to share their experiences with buying and using apps through a short survey. The ACCC has also released an issues paper seeking views and feedback from app developers and suppliers.
The work is part of a five-year ACCC inquiry which will produce reports every six months examining markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia.
“Apps have become essential tools for daily living for many Australian consumers, a trend that is likely to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apps are, in turn, increasingly important for businesses as they promote, grow and run their enterprises,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“We want to know more about the market for mobile apps in Australia, including how transparent and effective the market is, for consumers as well as those operating in the market. We will also focus on the extent of competition between the major online app stores, and how they compete for app sales with other app providers.”
Millions of apps are available for download by Australian consumers for use on mobile devices like phones, tablets and smart watches, and they span a wide range of functions including games, entertainment, health and fitness, education and the delivery of goods, such as food, and services, such as banking.
While there are various app stores or marketplaces, app sales are dominated by the Apple App Store, for iOS, and the Google Play Store, for Android devices.
“For app developers and suppliers, gaining a spot in one of the major app stores can result in significant sales, while failing to gain access can be a major setback. We are keen to provide greater transparency on how this process works,” Ms Rickard said.
“We are also interested in how data is used and shared in the app ecosystem, including the data available to Google and Apple as a result of their control of the major app stores.”
The survey for consumers and the issues paper are available at Digital platforms services inquiry. Submissions close on 2 October 2020. The final report will be handed down in March 2021.
The ACCC’s Digital platforms branch is conducting a five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia, following a direction from the Treasurer. This inquiry will report to the Treasurer every six months and will examine different forms of digital platform services, their advertising services as well as data brokers.
This report, focusing on app marketplaces, will be the second produced under this direction. It will follow a report focusing on online private messaging, social media and search services, which is due to be provided to the Treasurer by 30 September 2020.