Platforms’ dominance of apps market needs to be addressed

19 August 2021

New rules and regulations may be needed in addition to enforcement action by competition regulators worldwide to rectify concerns about the dominance of Apple and Google in app marketplaces, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said today.

In a speech to the Global Competition Review webinar about the ACCC’s digital platforms services inquiry report on app marketplaces, Mr Sims said the ACCC was closely monitoring moves by overseas governments and regulators that aimed to address competition and consumer concerns similar to those identified in the ACCC’s report. This includes US legislation introduced last week to address anticompetitive behaviour by dominant mobile app marketplaces.

“It is an exciting and challenging time to be a competition enforcer and regulator. There is much work underway in many jurisdictions to address the impact of the dominant digital platforms, whose global presences requires a global response,” Mr Sims said.

“This is why international coherence and alignment on both regulatory and enforcement approaches is so important, and we remain in close contact with our counterparts working on these issues overseas.”

Already, the ACCC and international regulators in the United States, Europe, the UK, and in Asia have launched a large number of inquiries, enforcement investigations and litigation relating to Google’s and Apple’s dominance in app marketplaces; and the dominance of digital platforms in other markets.

“While these enforcement actions and market studies are necessary to tackle the problems arising from dominant digital platforms, many jurisdictions are now recognising that they are not enough on their own,” Mr Sims said.

“Australia was an early mover with our legislated News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. However, other major jurisdictions are now considering, and implementing, much broader regulatory reforms to address the ‘gatekeeper’ or ‘strategic’ market power of major digital platforms.”

Mr Sims cited the five US anti-trust bills targeting major digital platforms and the new bill on app marketplaces, the European Commission’s draft Digital Markets Act, Germany’s new competition legislation for digital firms, the UK’s proposal to apply new rules to particular digital firms with ‘strategic market status’, as well as regulatory developments in Japan and draft legislation in South Korea targeting app marketplaces.

These proposals span issues from preventing further entrenchment of dominant market positions, promoting competition and greater transparency and fairness, respectively.

“Our own work at the ACCC must be tailored to match our own issues and concerns. But although the finer details of our approaches may vary, competition authorities can still achieve successful global outcomes by aligning their approaches to both enforcement and regulation,” Mr Sims said.

“This will include alignment around up front regulation and rules as well as enforcement. The competitiveness, and the level and type of innovation in our economy, requires this.”

A copy of the speech is available at online

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