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Mobile app stores under scrutiny

Mobile app stores under scrutiny

As part of the ACCC's digital platforms branch’s five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia

Credit: Dreamstime

Australia’s competition watchdog is turning its attention to mobile app stores to work out  whether more pricing transparency is needed in Australia’s mobile apps market, among other matters.

The report the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is hoping to compile from its investigation of the local apps market is part of its digital platforms branch’s five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia.

This inquiry will report to the Australian federal Treasurer every six months and will examine different forms of digital platform services, their advertising services and data brokers.

Broadly, the ACCC will examine the experiences of Australian consumers, developers, suppliers and others in a new report scrutinising mobile app stores.

The watchdog will examine the use and sharing of data by apps, the extent of competition between Google and Apple’s app stores, as well as 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,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. “Apps are, in turn, increasingly important for businesses as they promote, grow and run their enterprises.

“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,” she added.

While there are various app stores or marketplaces, app sales are dominated by the Apple App Store, for iOS, and the Google Play Store, for Android devices, according to the ACCC.

“For app developers and suppliers, gaining a spot in one of the major app stores can result in significant sales, while failing to gain access can be a major setback. We are keen to provide greater transparency on how this process works,” Rickard said.

“We are also interested in how data is used and shared in the app ecosystem, including the data available to Google and Apple as a result of their control of the major app stores,” she said.

The ACCC has released an issues paper seeking views and feedback from app developers and suppliers and has called on consumers to share their experiences with buying and using apps through a short survey. Submissions close on 2 October 2020. The final report will be handed down in March 2021.

This particular report, focusing on app marketplaces, will be the second produced under the government’s five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia. 

It will follow a report focusing on online private messaging, social media and search services, which is due to be provided to the Treasurer by 30 September 2020.


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