Apple and Google have responded to the ACCC’s proposal for major antitrust reforms

Google Play and Apple App Store

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Apple, Google and the Australian industry group that advocates for tech giants have raised concerns about the proposed measures outlined in an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) discussion paper to inquire about digital platform services.

In a discussion paper it published in February, the country’s competition watchdog put forward a slew of legislative measures that targeted major tech issues, including anti-competitive behavior, bargaining imbalances, inadequate consumer and business protections, and more.

In response to these proposals, Apple expressed its displeasure, describing its introduction [PDF] That the proposed reforms would result in Australian consumers being “worse off” and that it is “puzzling” about why the agency “prioritizes alleged competition concerns”, which it believes “lacks compelling evidence of harm, over the clear and obvious serious harm users face every day.” “.

“This is not what consumers want to see as results of legislative reform – they want stronger, not weaker – protection from illegal behavior that affects hundreds of thousands of Australians every year whose information is stolen, deceived, trafficked and exploited at their expense,” Apple wrote.

The Cupertino company also criticized the ACCC’s fixes as geared toward default handling, not existing issues, and that the changes would “unfortunately” change iPhone and other Apple services, including iOS and the App Store, and would lead to changes to Apple’s privacy and security standards and leave existing users vulnerable For less secure and private environments.

“Much of the discussion paper appears to be progressing on the assumption that there is a relevant market failure arising from Apple’s alleged market power,” Apple said.

“Apple does not believe that this assumption, properly examined, is correct in the broader online context in which (Apple related) app markets operate.

“In fact, app markets, even the mobile sector alone, have marked the passage of time since 2008 when the App Store was launched in Australia steadily with higher production (including the number of apps and app downloads) and lower prices (i.e. lower commissions). These The characteristics are indicative of healthy, competitive markets.”

Google put forward similar views, cautioning in its submission [PDF] The introduction of new legislation is “not without cost”.

The search engine giant noted that “improperly designed or implemented regulation can dampen innovation, reduce competition and discourage investment.”

She cautioned that reform should only happen once the Competition and Consumer Commission can demonstrate that the new rules will outweigh “potential downsides,” address and prevent so-called obvious harm from a lack of competition, and will not protect companies from competition.

Google also believes that the discussion paper’s proposal to ban self-preference when it comes to search could “deprive Australians of useful innovation”.

“Consider our presentation of a micromap in search: Multiple courts and authorities have validated this product. But in the face of a total ban on self-preference, we may not have introduced this useful design in Australia,” Google said.

“In general, the explicit prohibition of subjective preference, without thinking of justification or harm, calls into question any vertical integration, widely seen as effective. To take one example: a modern smartphone comes with multiple services such as email, phone and music , video, GPS, calculators and many other services. A blanket ban on self-preference would restrict the service provider from offering an integrated smartphone.”

The search engine maker also raised concerns about the ACCC’s call for merger law reforms, as the regulations envisage new merger rules tailored to digital platforms, noting that existing legislation is already able to prevent anti-competitive takeovers through digital platforms.

Similarly, Digital Industry Group Inc (DiGi), which advocates for tech giants including Meta, Google, Apple and Twitter, has deemed the new framework for digital platform services unnecessary.

“An individual framework—particularly if owned by a single regulator—will lack the depth, breadth, and clarity to be adequately comprehensive in addressing consumer privacy, safety, cybersecurity, and fair trade issues in digital platform services,” DiGi said in its submission. [PDF] to the ACCC.

What DiGi has proposed instead is to update existing regulations to reflect digital challenges, as well as to provide government departments and regulators with the resources and skills so that they can handle the services of the digital platform.

On the other hand, Epic Games supported the ACCC’s assertion that Google and Apple have strong control over a number of digital platform services and that their market power within these platforms is becoming increasingly entrenched.

“The market power of Apple and Google and the resulting ‘gatekeeper’ position has hurt competition, consumers and developers,” said the company, which is currently in legal battles with Apple and Google respectively. – A competitor to developers.

in presentation [PDF]Epic has argued that requiring Apple and Google to allow alternative app stores on mobile devices would lead to “a more open ecosystem that gives consumers and developers better choice and value”.

The commission called for any changes that would generate competition within existing ecosystems to be prioritized, something Epic Games already has for laptops or desktops, including PCs, Macs and Chromebooks.

Epic highlighted, “It is only when consumers move from computer to phone that they are limited to installing software through the App Store and Play Store,” noting that the impact is not just on developers, but on a range of capabilities other than games, including services Banking, health and fitness, social interactions, video chats, film and TV streaming.

Microsoft has also provided support for addressing self-preference behavior in application markets.

“Microsoft’s experience was consistent with that of other third-party app developers who must accept the policies of dominant app store operators in order to reach users of their apps: some of these policies either prevent us entirely from offering competitive cloud game streaming apps to mobile users, or limit services such as using in-app purchase payment processing systems,” Microsoft said in its statement [PDF].

A final report on the ACCC’s major technology investigation will be submitted to the Treasurer by September 30.

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