Australia’s antitrust competition watchdog says that it may have to step in and regulate the App Store if Apple doesn’t do so first.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wants app store operators — including both Apple and Google — to allow developers to take payments outside of the respective app stores. This would stop both companies taking commission from every app-related purchase in which apps are available through their online stores.
This is at the heart of Apple’s current standoff with Fortnite maker Epic Games. In August 2020, Epic created a means way which users could circumvent the App Store to buy Fortnite in-app purchases. This saved Epic from having to pay Apple the 30% it demands via the App Store. Apple then accused Epic of violating its terms of service and booted Fortnite from the App Store. The two are now locked in a legal battle.
In addition, the ACCC wants app data collected by Google and Apple to be kept separate from other operations. It also says that customers must be allowed to change or remove pre-installed or default apps.
“We have identified a number of areas where action is required and have put forward potential measures to address areas of particular concern,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “There is a window of opportunity for Apple and Google themselves to take steps to improve outcomes for app developers and consumers.”
App Store investigations
Australia is far from the first country to take issue with the App Store. It was scrutinized during last summer’s Big Tech hearings in the United States. In the Netherlands, antitrust investigators in the Netherlands are coming to the end of a “years-long” investigation into the matter. The Netherlands may become the first country to rule on it. Meanwhile, on Tuesday it was reported that the EU is about to make an announcement on this subject.
Australia is also reportedly eyeing Apple’s lucrative search deal with Google. This could be another matter for the ACCC to solve.