16 October 2018

ACM looks into possible restrictions by app stores

The digital economy has been a key priority for the ACM for some time. Against this backdrop, ACM have announced the start of a market consultation on how app developers can make their apps available for sale in an app store, and what influence these stores have on the range of apps available to end consumers.

The ACM observed in its press release that the market for smartphones and apps is maturing and an increasing proportion of internet traffic is taking place through apps. It is therefore vital for app developers to ensure that their apps are available in app stores, to allow as many people as possible to access and use them. The ACM noted that the Android and iOS mobile platforms have gained a strong market position, and the offering of apps in their stores is very elaborate. However, if app developers cannot reach end consumers, these companies’ abilities to offer their services in an effective way may be impaired. The ACM determined that the interests of app stores and the interests of companies providing apps are not necessarily aligned, as owners of app stores may also provide apps themselves. Therefore, the ACM is investigating how app stores select and approve apps, and what influence this process has on the offering of apps on each platform.

To this effect, ACM will conduct a market consultation. This fits in with a general trend of investigations and publications regarding the digital economy that the ACM has issued this year. In June, the ACM initiated a market investigation into changing business models in the media sector, looking in particular at how ad-generated revenue models of online platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) impact users’ freedom to gather a diverse range of news and media. Other recent ACM market studies have looked into online platforms for video streaming and bundling of telecom services and content. Furthermore, ACM has published a position paper on market dominance of big tech companies in preparation for a hearing at the Dutch parliament, and dedicated a publication to the risks and opportunities of digitalisation and the ACM’s role in enforcement amidst these developments.