The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will investigate whether Apple abuses the position it has attained with its App Store. ACM will do so following indications that ACM has received from other app providers over the course of its market study into app stores. That market study has been published today.
Henk Don, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘To a large degree, app providers depend on Apple and Google for offering apps to users. In the market study, ACM has received indications from app providers, which seem to indicate that Apple abuses its position in the App Store. That is why ACM sees sufficient reason for launching a follow-up investigation, on the basis of competition law.’
Apps have increasingly become important parts of our daily lives. Businesses that provide apps depend on the app stores of Apple and Google for offering their apps to users. Given the significant importance of these app stores to app providers, ACM expects Apple and Google to exhibit fair and transparent behavior. ACM will investigate, among other aspects, whether Apple acted in violation of the prohibition of abuse of dominance, for example, by giving preferential treatment to its own apps. At first, the investigation will focus on Apple because, at the moment, the most detailed reports have been received about Apple’s App Store. ACM believes that these reports may indicate conduct that is at odds with competition law.
ACM is calling on app providers to come forward if they experience any problems with Apple’s App Store, but also if they experience similar problems with Google’s Play Store. ACM will use that information in its investigation. The investigation initially focuses on Dutch apps for news media that offer their apps in Apple’s App Store. ACM has received many indications about such apps. However, this does not mean that a conclusion has already been drawn that a violation has indeed occurred. In the upcoming investigation, ACM will be looking into that question. One possible outcome of the investigation is that no violation is established.
ACM launched the market study into app stores for mobile phones in order to gain more insight into how app providers get their apps in app stores, and what influence the app stores have on the selection of apps for users. The digital economy is one of ACM’s key priorities. The market study was launched within that context.
The market study reveals that app providers depend on the app store in order to reach users on their mobile phones. For numerous apps, no realistic alternatives to the App Store and Play Store exist. That gives, at least in theory, Apple and Google the opportunity to set unfair conditions. On the one hand, Apple and Google have an interest in offering many different apps from app providers in their app stores. On the other hand, however, Apple and Google are app providers in their own right, too. So their apps compete with those of other market participants. These competing interests may pose antitrust problems.
App providers say they do not always have a fair chance against Apple’s own apps or against apps that Google has pre-installed on phones. In addition, providers of digital products and services are required to use Apple’s and Google’s payment systems for in-app purchases, and they are also required to pay a 30% commission in the first year. Furthermore, they are not always able to use all functionalities of an iPhone. And finally, they say they have difficulties when communicating with Apple and Google about the application of their conditions. These problems, together with the indications submitted by app providers, are sufficient reason for ACM to launch an investigation into Apple’s behavior.
If you are an app provider with information that might be relevant to the investigation, please contact ACM. You can also contact us anonymously.