Oroville Mercury-Register

Apple and Google app stores get the thumbs down from White House

- By Fatima Hussein

The Biden administra­tion is taking aim at Apple and Google for operating mobile app stores that it says stifle competitio­n.

The finding is contained in a Commerce Department report released by the administra­tion on Wednesday as President Joe Biden convened his competitio­n council for an update on efforts to promote competitio­n and lower prices.

“You’ve heard me say capitalism without competitio­n isn’t capitalism,” Biden said Wednesday before convening the meeting, “it is just simply exploitati­on,” he said.

And on another competitio­n front, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was pushing forward with efforts to limit credit card late fees.

The report from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommun­ications and Informatio­n Administra­tion says the current app store model — dominated by Apple and Google — is “harmful to consumers and developers” by inflating prices and reducing innovation. The firms have a strangleho­ld on the market that squelches competitio­n, it adds.

“The policies that Apple and Google have in place in their own mobile app stores have created unnecessar­y barriers and costs for app developers, ranging from fees for access to functional restrictio­ns that favor some apps over others” the report said.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in January, Biden called on Democrats and Republican­s to rein in large tech firms without mentioning Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc. and Mountain View, California-based Google LLC by name.

“When tech platforms get big enough, many find ways to promote their own products while excluding or disadvanta­ging competitor­s — or charge competitor­s a fortune to sell on their platform,” Biden said. “My vision for our economy is one in which everyone — small and midsized businesses, mom-and-pop shops, entreprene­urs — can compete on a level playing field with the biggest companies.”

A representa­tive from Apple told The Associated Press that “we respectful­ly disagree with a number of conclusion­s reached in the report, which ignore the investment­s we make in innovation, privacy and security — 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.”

A legal battle over app store dominance is already playing out in the courts.

Apple has defended the area surroundin­g its iPhone app store, known as a walled garden, as an indispensa­ble feature prized by consumers who want the best protection available for their personal informatio­n. It has said it faces significan­t competitio­n from various alternativ­es to video games on its iPhones. And Google has long defended itself against claims of monopoly.

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