In an report related to its ongoing investigation into Apple and Google app marketplace dominance, Australia’s consumer watchdog has warned both companies that it wants consumers to have more choice when it comes to preinstalled apps on Apple and Android devices (via ZDNet).
Specifically, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wants Apple and Google to give users more control over the default apps in their respective mobile operating systems.
“There is a need for consumers to have more choice through an ability to change any preinstalled default app on their device that is not a core phone feature,” the ACC said. “This would provide consumers with more control to choose the app that best meets their needs, and promote more robust competition in downstream markets for apps.”
Apple already allows iOS users to choose third-party mail and web browsing apps over its native Mail client and Safari browser, but the ACCC wants to see the same level of choice applied to all pre-installed apps.
One of a number of proposed changes is the introduction of “choice screens” that allow consumers to choose between all first-party apps and third-party alternatives. The proposal is reminiscent of the prompt that iOS users in Russia see when first configuring a device to pre-install apps from a list of government-approved software.
Other proposals include the ability for developers to inform users of alternative payment options, and a means of preventing Apple and Google from using information collected about third-party apps to advantage their own competing apps. The watchdog warned the tech giants that regulation could be required if the concerns are not addressed.
The comments in the 165-page interim report are consistent with previous remarks made by the commission, which believes that Apple and Google hold a dominant position as app distributors which could be exploited by preferencing their own apps and payment platforms over third-party alternatives.
The report notes that outside of China, Android OS and Apple’s iOS account for close to 100% of the market for mobile operating systems, with Google commanding 73% and Apple accounting for 27% of the market. In Australia, the split is more like 50/50.
“Apple and Google’s dominance in mobile OS, combined with the control exerted over the app marketplaces permitted into their mobile ecosystems, means that the App Store and the Play Store control the key gateways through which app developers can access consumers on mobile devices,” says the report.
The ACCC in March began assessing the basis for a formal probe into pre-installed software and pre-defined “default” choices on mobile devices, including Google being set as the default search engine on Apple devices. The app store report is just the latest development in the ACCC’s ongoing Digital Platform Services Inquiry.