Australia is giving the Google/Apple smartphone duopoly a closer look

The Aussie competition authority thinks the ecosystem around mobile app stores, which is controlled entirely by just two companies, merits closer inspection.

This forms part of a general deep dive into the digital economy by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). This particular probe is set to culminate in a report published in March 2021. So the ACCC has given itself half a year to collect testimony from Australian consumers, developers, suppliers and other stakeholders in that world.

“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,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard. “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.”

While this is part of an ongoing project, the app store bit coincides with the decision by game developer Epic to take its dispute with Google and Apple over their app store policies public. Japan has already joined the fun and now Australia has picked this moment to look into a market that is largely the same as it has been for a decade.

Nobody is saying the global app store duopoly didn’t evolve through legitimate competitive means, but a duopoly is a cause for concern regardless of how it came about. Similarly, nobody is suggesting direct collusion between Google and Apple to fix prices, but at the same time there’s no denying they have spontaneously ended up charging developers exactly the same rate to use their platforms. That’s the sort of thing the ACCC will want to know more about.

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