App developers are increasingly frustrated with Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store policies. Now they have formed the non-profit Coalition for App Fairness, with the goal of changing what they believe are exorbitant fees for being on the App Store and anti-competitive behavior.
Increasingly, digital conglomerates like Apple are coming under fire from a consumer and regulatory standpoint over their massive market power and their moves to compete directly with their digital partners.
App developers have Apple in their sights
App developers have always taken issue with the gatekeeper role Apple has played in accepting some apps and denying others, and the fact that it takes a 15%-30% cut of all app and in-app purchases. While Google has more lax requirements in some ways, it also takes a 30% cut from app developers, and also makes it difficult for developers go outside of the Play Store. Apple appears to be the primary target of the coalition.
Members of the coalition include Epic Games and streaming music provider Spotify along with 11 other app providers. Epic Games is currently embroiled in an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and will likely go to trial in 2021. Apple and Google have long claimed that their fees and use of proprietary payments systems are necessary for security reasons. Apple points out that is the 30% cut is less than what companies would be required to pay if their software were sold in physical stores.
But the fact that Apple now offers its own services that compete directly with many of the app developers it hosts has particularly rubbed salt in their wounds. Tile, maker of Bluetooth-based locator hardware and app developer, for instance, claims that Apple manipulated its rules and policies to disadvantage the company as Apple was developing its own competing Find My app.
Coalition hopes to provide a ‘legal blueprint’
The coalition’s roadmap titled “10 App Store Principles” states, among other things, that no developer should be required to use an app store exclusively to reach users, no developer should be blocked from the platform, every developer should have timely access to the same interoperability interfaces and technical information as the app store owner offers to its own developers, and no app store owner or platform should engage in self-preferencing its own apps or services.
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The coalition’s hope is that its 10 principles will serve as a blueprint for modern laws and regulations, and the coalition will lobby with governments around the world to push them. Apple’s tight control over the App Store has been a concern of regulators both in the US and abroad. Apple continually points out that any app developer can create apps over its web platform and charge consumers directly. But app developers are continually at a disadvantage in terms of searchability and quality.
App developers have long been afraid to question Apple’s policies for fear of being cut out of the app economy. But they are increasingly feeling disadvantaged. Apple will like continue to see pushback. It is facing an antitrust lawsuit, government pressure and now publicly disgruntled app developers.