The ACCC says it may have to regulate to reduce the dominance of Apple and Google in app marketplaces. 

“There is much work underway in many jurisdictions to address the impact of the dominant digital platforms, whose global presences requires a global response,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a recent speech to a Global Competition Review webinar. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a report earlier this year that found Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store have significant market power in the distribution of mobile apps in Australia.

The regulator found local app developers need fair and reasonable terms when dealing with app stores and better processes for the approval of apps to help address the consequences of the duopoly. 

Apple and Google do not only run the app marketplaces - they also compete within them with their own apps. They have the ability and incentive to promote their own apps over others, and they control the terms that their competitors must comply with to gain access to their stores.

The report found app developers should have more information about how their apps are made discoverable to consumers and that consumers should have the ability to change or remove any pre-installed or default apps.

Mr Sims says moves are afoot around the world.

The ACCC and international regulators in the United States, Europe, the UK, and in Asia have launched a large number of inquiries, enforcement investigations and litigation relating to Google’s and Apple’s dominance in app marketplaces

“International coherence and alignment on both regulatory and enforcement approaches is so important, and we remain in close contact with our counterparts working on these issues overseas,” Mr Sim said. 

He cited five US anti-trust bills targeting major digital platforms and the new bill on app marketplaces, the European Commission’s draft Digital Markets Act, Germany’s new competition legislation for digital firms, the UK’s proposal to apply new rules to particular digital firms with ‘strategic market status’, as well as regulatory developments in Japan and draft legislation in South Korea targeting app marketplaces.

These proposals span issues from preventing further entrenchment of dominant market positions, promoting competition and greater transparency and fairness, respectively.

“Our own work at the ACCC must be tailored to match our own issues and concerns. But although the finer details of our approaches may vary, competition authorities can still achieve successful global outcomes by aligning their approaches to both enforcement and regulation,” Mr Sims said.

“This will include alignment around up front regulation and rules as well as enforcement. The competitiveness, and the level and type of innovation in our economy, requires this.”