As Google and Apple are being questioned over the control they wield on the app store market, the debate is also raging in France and the European tech, particularly as the EU’s landmark Digital Markets Act approaches.
On the occasion of France Digitale Day, Match Group vice-president Mark Buse, owner of dating apps such as Tinder or Meetic, and Andy Yen, founder of Proton, exchanged views during a debate entitled “David vs Goliath: the fight for app fairness”.
Both men belong to the Coalition for App Fairness, which aims to fight against such monopolistic practices, also advocating for a ban on the pre-installation of apps on our phones.
“The only way for apps to reach users is through two monopolies, which are side by side,” complained Buse, accusing app stores of being “black boxes without transparency”. But, he said, “the dominoes are falling”.
“David is not doing so badly at the moment,” Andy Yen laughed during an exchange with EURACTIV ahead of his discussion with Buse.
“Have we beaten Goliath? Not yet. But we are doing much better than anyone could have imagined,” added the Proton CEO.
The noose is tightening
At the end of August, a new law was introduced in South Korea requiring app shops to allow alternative means of payment for purchases made on apps.
In concrete terms, users will now be able to use their credit card to pay for their purchases, without necessarily having to go through the internal system of the App Store or Google Play, which enabled the digital giants to obtain a commission in the process.
“South Korea has proven that we can beat Apple and Google,” Buse said, hoping that the new law will set a precedent that would loosen the grip of the two digital giants. “It’s a simple law,” said the vice-president of Match Group.
Apple’s App Store is also being targeted by France’s Fraud Control Board (DGCCRF).
On 17 September, the first hearing at the Paris Commercial Court was held in this legal procedure for “abusive commercial practices”. However, Apple opposed the participation of France Digitale, which had sided with the government, thus postponing the case to a future hearing.
In Brussels, the future Digital Markets Act (DMA), currently pending before the European Parliament and Council, “targets unfair practices by gatekeepers that either do not fall under existing EU competition rules or cannot be as effectively covered by those rules”, said the European Commission’s proposal made last December.
The Commission’s text states that access controllers must allow “the installation and effective use of third-party software applications or software application shops” – a move that Apple CEO Tim Cook frowned upon as it could “destroy the security of the iPhone”, he told a Vivatech event in June.
However, the proposal states that “nothing prevents the gatekeeper from taking proportionate measures” to ensure that these external application shops “do not compromise the integrity” of the devices.
The DMA could come into force by January 2023, according to Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice-president for digital.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Luca Bertuzzi]