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ACCC examining Apple, Google app practices amid Fortnite scuffle

“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,” said ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard in announcing the next phase of the inquiry.

“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.”

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Last month Epic Games launched legal proceedings against Apple and Google in protest of the companies’ guidelines and practices which it says are increasingly monopolistic. Fortnite was removed from both the App Store on iOS and Google Play on Android devices, after Epic instituted a change that would allow players to buy currency direct from Epic and circumvent Apple and Google’s cut.

Epic argues that the two companies have a monopoly over the app store and in-app-purchase marketplaces on devices running their operating systems, and wants to introduce its own competing options.

The ACCC’s issues paper on app marketplaces highlights similar issues, such as the limited choice in app stores on mobile devices (Apple does no allow alternative app stores at all, while Android does but heavily favours Google Play), and the lack of choices developers have when accepting payments for in-app purchases.

The ACCC is seeking consumer views via an online survey, which closes on October 2. It is due to hand down a report on the matter in March next year.

This will form the second part of the digital services inquiry, the first of which concerned social media and search services. The final report on that topic is due to be handed down on September 30.

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