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Apple antitrust investigation opens in Australia the day after Italy


Today has seen the announcement of the second Apple antitrust investigation in two days. Just one day after Italy announced that it was investigating the fairness of iCloud terms and conditions, Australia says that it is launching a broad investigation into both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that it will be examining the fairness of the two app stores from both consumer and developer perspectives …

The ACCC made the announcement in a press 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 […]

“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.”

To help understand views, it is inviting both consumers and developers to complete questionnaires. The consumer one asks people which app stores they use, then asks questions covering a number of areas:

  • How their data is used
  • Whether they feel in control of the data collected by apps
  • The extent to which they are influenced by app rankings
  • Whether app costs are clear
  • Any issues with scam apps

Areas of inquiry for the developer version are:

  • Which app stores they use when submitting apps
  • Use of in-app purchases
  • Experience of app review processes, including any appeals made
  • The impact of rankings and being featured by an app store
  • Whether they understand ranking and featured processes
  • The data they collect, and whether it is available to the app stores

The ACCC is asking people to submit comments to the Apple antitrust investigation team no later than October 2, and it will report back in March 2021.

There have been growing complaints by developers in a number of countries about Apple’s commission and App Store policies, with Japanese developers recently highlighting anomalies in Apple’s 30% cut.

In the US, a congressional inquiry cited ‘deeply disturbing’ anti-competitive behavior by the company.

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