Tech giants face more investigations, Apple’s app store can’t stand alone

The use of smartphone apps and online sites has grown dramatically in recent years, as people increasingly migrate to modern communication strategies, and their dependency on many major technology firms has also increased.

Sunday, November 8, 2020, 12:51 GMT

At the same time, antitrust regulators in the United States and Europe have been paying careful attention to this issue, aiming to explore the domination in the technology industry of certain major corporations.

One of the problems is how much leverage the platform operators have in the mobile device economy, and their ability to behave in an anti-competitive way as industry gatekeepers. New rules that protect web sites have recently been adopted by the European Union.

A variety of challenges that developers face while using the Apple App Store have been exposed in many recent circumstances. This prompted developers to form an organization called the “App Fair Coalition,” which in the Apple App Store proposed addressing three main problems.

The first one is the issue of anti-competitive and conflict of interest practices. Apple is the platform’s “gatekeeper,” setting standards for third-party users and offering its own services. The second is to tax in-app sales with a 30 percent purchase rate to prohibit developers from using or letting consumers know about any cheaper types of payment. Third, the right of preference and purchasing is still lacking for consumers of the app store.

Criticism and interest

One of the key critiques of Apple’s way of running the app store is that developers other than Apple have no alternative. Via agreement, bigger corporations can negotiate an exemption, but so far the restriction tends to extend only to three technology companies, ClassPass, Facebook and Airbnb, and not to any individual applications. This will also escalate the fears of national regulators where, in terms of consumer dominance and negotiating power, major technology firms control.

The issue is that Apple is not only the application’s “gatekeeper,” but still runs its own “gatekeeper” application when running its own competition for the application. In the first year, Spotify must pay Apple 30 percent of the subscription fee, and then the monthly commission fee is lowered. To 15 percent, but there is no need to pay any rates for competitor Apple’s own music streaming service. Apple laws also forbid developers from asking consumers that out-of-the-app store premium packages are cheaper.

Developers are generally hesitant to speak openly about disagreements with Apple, since the availability of software on the Apple App Store relies on their company or survival. Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the U.S. Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives: “We can not retaliate or intimidate anyone. This is a gross breach of our corporate culture.”

The famous “Fortnite” game maker Epic Games, however, also demanded limitations on Apple, partially because they claimed that Apple was subject to broader retribution for their actions.

Epic Games introduced a new direct payment system for interactive goods in August of this year, without asking Apple to get 30 percent of its revenue. This suggests that fewer would be charged by consumers. The step breached their developer agreement and threatened to block all Epic Games developer accounts, including those of unrelated goods, Apple said.

Although Apple has reason to claim that its developer agreement has been broken by Epic Games, the latter argues that these provisions are anti-competitive and unlawful content because they refuse consumers the ability to select and lift costs. The court decided that because of certain apparently retaliatory actions being targeted against various legal entities, Epic Games risked “irreparable damages.”

The issue is that such costly court actions can not be afforded by most developers. The case of Epic Games has allowed more developers to voice their complaints openly about the commercial app store policies of Apple. Any of their requirements were also compared by one of the developers to “blackmail.”

Pictured: Apple competes with Epic Sports, the maker of the popular game “Fortnite”

Apple claims that its regulations guarantee that apps “meet our high privacy, usability, and security requirements” and are structured to retain customer interest. These guidelines ensure that users ‘ personal data or files are not manipulated by apps.

But clearly, certain limits on Apple go well beyond this. Applications, for instance, do not warn consumers that Apple charges 30 percent of the cost. In other examples, developers argued that Apple was attempting to push them to make such business choices, such as renewing free trial subscriptions automatically. They did not, in truth, consent and did not intend to do so.

Game Monopoly

The issue with the Apple App Store is that developers have no “other spot” to select from. Apple forbids others from building a rival app store, so Apple applications are the only way to get software on the iPhone or iPad. 30 percent is also paid by the store. The U.S. Judiciary Commission. A severely worded study on the effect on the digital environment of technology sector monopolies was released by the House of Representatives. The study highlighted the high cost of abandoning Apple devices and functional issues.

The study also accused Apple of “inventing unwritten codes for its own sake.” Thus, it looks more and more likely to be taken to court by a corporation accused of behaving as a “judge, jury and executioner” against developers on its own website.