Regulatory measures proposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have drawn criticism from Google, Apple, and the industry group that represents Big Tech in the country.
In a discussion paper for the Digital Platforms Services inquiry, the ACCC forwarded a number of measures that would tackle what it sees as issues with Big Tech. Australia’s competition watchdog is targeting issues with monopolies, anti-competitive actions, and a lack of protection for consumers.
Apple has responded to the proposals in a submission [PDF], claiming the changes will leave Australian consumers worse off. The company claims it is “puzzled” by the ideas and says the ACCC’s concern about anit-competition “lack cogent evidence of harm, over clear and present severe damage to users that they experience every day”.
“That is not what consumers want to see as outcomes of legislative reform — they want stronger, not weaker, protection — from the unlawful conduct which affects the hundreds of thousands of Australians every year whose information is stolen, scammed, traded and exploited to their detriment,” Apple says.
Furthermore, Apple points out the reforms are aiming for problems that do not exist, instead focusing on potential issues. It says consumers on iPhone, iPad, iOS and other Apple services would have less security and privacy, not more.
“Much of the discussion paper appears to proceed on the assumption that there is a relevant market failure arising from Apple’s purported market power,” Apple writes.
“Apple does not believe that, properly examined, that assumption is correct in the wider online context in which (relevantly to Apple) app marketplaces operate.
“Indeed, app marketplaces, even the mobile segment alone, have over time since 2008 when the App Store launched in Australia been consistently characterised by higher output (including both the number of apps and app downloads) and decreasing prices (ie, lower commissions). These characteristics are indicia of healthy, competitive markets.”
Google has taken a similar stance to Apple in its own submission [PDF], claiming there will be consequences if the ACCC approach passes into law:
“Improperly designed or implemented regulation can dull innovation, reduce competition, and chill investment,” Google notes.
The company believes the reforms would stop Australians from accessing innovative features. According to the search giant, any changes should only happen when the laws outweighs the “potential downsides”.
“Consider our introduction of a thumbnail map in Search: multiple courts and authorities have validated this product improvement. But faced with an outright ban on self-preferencing, we might never have introduced that beneficial design in Australia,” Google adds.
“More generally, outright bans on self-preferencing, without considering justifications or harm, call into question any vertical integration, which is widely regarded as efficient. To take one example: a modern smartphone comes with multiple downstream services like email, phone, music, video, GPS, calculators and myriad other services. Blanket bans on self-preferencing would restrict a provider from introducing an integrated smartphone.”
DiGi Weighs In
The Digital Industry Group Inc (DiGi), a group that advocates for tech companies in Australia, agrees the proposals are pointless.
“A singular framework — particularly if it were to be owned by a single regulator — would lack the depth, breadth and clarity to be suitably comprehensive in addressing consumer privacy, safety, cyber security and fair trading issues on digital platform services,” says DiGi in its submission [PDF] to the ACCC.
Microsoft too has added its thoughts, seemingly siding against Apple and Google:
“Microsoft’s experience has been consistent with that of other third-party app developers that must accept the dominant app store operators’ policies in order to reach users of their apps: certain of these policies either prevent us entirely from offering competitive cloud game streaming apps to mobile users, or limit services such as the use of alternative in-app purchase payment processing systems,” Microsoft says in its submission [PDF].
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