Global showdown between Apple and Epic Games or South Korean “anti-Google law”, attempts are increasing to crack the arch-dominant position of the two tech giants in the lucrative mobile application market.
Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems are installed on more than 95% of smartphones worldwide, and each of the two groups controls which apps can be installed on them with its own online store, earning commissions at passage.
What feed many accusations of abuse of a dominant position.
Samsung’s home country South Korea on Tuesday became the first major economic power to pass legislation banning Apple and Google from taxing their payment systems to buy apps.
The text is likely to set a global precedent, including in the United States where a bill with similar provisions was tabled in mid-August by three senators, or within the European Union which is preparing a draft regulation on digital markets.
“Capital” judgment expected in California
But the most awaited decision on the subject is that of the Oakland (California) court, which will soon settle the resounding conflict between Apple and Epic Games, the publisher of the Fortnite game.
“Symbolically, the judgment of the Californian courts (is) capital”, analysis for AFP Pierre Zélenko, lawyer associated with the firm Linklaters. “It is the land of the defendants, their home market” in which the judges are not suspected of sanctioning the American tech giants for reasons of international competition.
Epic also wanted to bring the iron to Australia, to the European Commission and the British Competition Authority.
“There is a will on their part to multiply the fronts, to put pressure, to have more chances of having a recognized authority which proves them right, hoping for a domino effect”, considers Pierre Zélenko.
According to him, the European Commission is likely to sanction the heaviest fine. Australia is also at the forefront of competition issues, while a UK conviction would pave the way for significant damages.
Apple is also the subject of three collective complaints (two in the United States of users and developers, and one in the United Kingdom) over the strict rules of its App Store, the amount considered high of its commissions and the impossibility to offer an alternative application store.
At the end of April, the European Commission, guardian of competition in Europe, had also denounced Apple’s “abuse of a dominant position” following a complaint from the world leader in music streaming Spotify: he accused the Apple brand of ” use its App Store to promote its own Apple Music service.
Finally, proceedings against Apple are progressing slowly in France, where a hearing is due to take place on September 17 at the Paris Commercial Court after a complaint for “abusive commercial practices” filed in 2018 by the Directorate General for Competition (DGCCRF), joined since then by the France Digitale association which represents French start-ups.
Under pressure, the apple brand began to shift its stance, first granting a reduced commission rate to small developers, then announcing that it would allow publishers to direct their users to their website to buy. a subscription, without paying any commission.
Risks to privacy?
To defend itself, the company systematically puts forward the income redistributed to developers and warns of the risks to the privacy of its users if it were to allow the existence of alternatives to the App Store, an argument which according to experts allows to move the debate away from competition issues.
“Apple allowed me to build a business, for which I am grateful to them”, testified to AFP David Barnard, a Texas developer of applications for everyday life (monitor the weather, analyze consumption fuel…).
“But that comes with some pretty significant rewards, because they can just crush your business without warning. […] It is time for Apple to review its prices, ”he pleaded.
For its part, Google is accused by 37 US states of having created an “illegal monopoly” in access to mobile applications via its online store, Play Store.
And the group is also targeted by a collective complaint from British consumers.