The Biden administration on Wednesday took its biggest swipe yet at app stores run by Apple and Google, with a new report accusing the two tech giants of exercising “gatekeeper” power that has led to “suboptimal” levels of competition in digital markets.
The report published by the Commerce Department finds that Apple and Google “play a significant gatekeeping role by controlling (and restricting) how apps are distributed,” and that the various fees and rules they impose on app developers has created an uneven playing field.
“All of these factors translate to potential losses for consumers: prices that are inflated due to the fees collected by gatekeepers, innovation that is hampered by policy decisions to limit access to smartphone capabilities, and the loss of choice of apps that are not featured or even accessible for smartphone users,” the report said.
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The 48-page report throws the White House’s weight behind mounting public criticism of dominant app stores, which in recent years has led to multiple private lawsuits against Apple and Google as well as investigations by antitrust regulators in Europe and reports of a probe by the Justice Department.
In a statement, Apple said its app store has benefited developers and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. In the past, Apple has argued that its control over iOS app distribution helps promote users’ privacy and security.
“We respectfully disagree with a number of conclusions reached in the report, which ignore the investments we make in innovation, privacy and security,” an Apple spokesperson said, “all of which contribute to why users love iPhone and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a safe and trusted platform.”