A report commissioned by the Biden administration this week recommended new legislation to make major changes to Apple’s platform restrictions and app store policies.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the President’s primary adviser on telecommunications and Internet policy. In April last year, the NTIA announced that it had launched an investigation into competition in mobile app ecosystems. The investigation was prompted by an executive order to promote competition in America’s economy of July 2021, with the aim of making recommendations to improve competition, lower barriers to entry and maximize user benefits.
Months after its content was shared with the White House, the NTIA released the “Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem” report this week — the first such report on the Apple ecosystem by a federal organization. Based on the research findings, the report recommends:
- Third-party app stores should be allowed, and users should not be prevented from downloading apps outside of a gatekeeper’s own app store. Legal and regulatory measures should prohibit restrictions on sideloading, alternative app stores and web apps.
- Requirements that prohibit developers from using alternative in-app payment systems should be prohibited.
- Third-party web browser apps should be able to offer full functionality and not be subject to browser engine limitations.
- Preinstalled apps, default options, and anti-competitive self-preferences should be restricted, including in search results.
- Users should be able to select their own apps as default and delete or hide pre-installed apps.
- App store review processes should be more transparent.
According to the report, new legislation and additional antitrust enforcement actions will likely be needed to address existing issues and boost competition in mobile app ecosystems. For more information, see the NTIA’s full report.
Apple’s ecosystem has come under intense scrutiny from governments around the world in recent years, including the UK, Germany, Italy, the European Union, South Korea, Japan and more, with a clear appetite from global regulators to examine platform restrictions Topics like app sideloading, browser engines and interoperability.
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