The Biden administration has called out Apple’s and Google’s app store businesses for ‘’playing a significant gatekeeping role by controlling (and restricting) how apps are distributed’’.
On Wednesday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce shared the findings of its investigation which was first launched in 2021 after Joe Biden’s executive order. As part of the study, NTIA said it consulted with stakeholders in the private industry, civil society, and academia, and also reviewed more than 150 comments that were filed in response to a request for public feedback in April last year.
“Our review suggests that the mobile app store model has provided a range of benefits to both app developers and users, but has also created conditions of competition that are suboptimal,” the Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem report says. “The policies that Apple and Google have in place in their own mobile app stores have created unnecessary barriers and costs for app developers, ranging from fees for access to functional restrictions that favor some apps over others. These obstacles impose costs on firms and organizations offering new technology: apps lack features, development and roll-out costs are higher, customer relations are damaged, and many apps fail to reach a large number of users.”
NTIA’s report also includes recommendations to improve competition and innovation in the mobile app ecosystem, such as preventing platforms from using their business data sourced from third-party apps in favor of their own apps, offering a more transparent app review process, allowing users to set alternative apps or app stores as defaults and to remove or hide pre-installed apps, allowing developers to offer alternative payment methods and also let them inform their users that they can complete an in-app purchase on their websites.
Following the report, a spokesperson for Apple said: “We respectfully disagree with a number of conclusions reached in the report, which ignore the investments we make in innovation, privacy and security — all of which contribute to why users love iPhone and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a safe and trusted platform.”
A Google spokesperson commented: “We disagree with how this report characterizes Android which enables more choice and competition than any other mobile operating system. NTIA recognizes the importance of interoperability, multiple app stores and sideloading, which Android’s open system already supports — all while ensuring privacy and security.”
Google is also currently facing an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice and 8 U.S. states late last month.