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ADIF becomes party to CCI probe into Apple’s app market dominance

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New Delhi: The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has officially become a party to the ongoing case against Apple before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) over the big tech firm’s alleged abuse of market power in the apps market. The complaint was originally filed by Jaipur-based non-profit ‘Together We Fight Society’ arguing that Apple’s imposition of a high in-app fee and other restrictions hurts competition by raising costs for app developers and customers, while also acting as a barrier to market entry.

The CCI in late December 2021 ordered a probe into Apple’s business practices in India,  saying that the regular it was of the initial view that the tech giant had violated certain antitrust laws.

Apple’s app store practices have been restrictive and at times even violative of the rights of app owners to conduct their business and are facing scrutiny from antitrust regulators in the  United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands. In December 2021, the Dutch anti-trust regulator found Apple’s App Store policies to be in violation of its competition laws and has since levied a series of penalties against the company over non-compliance with its order.

Individual organizations have also mounted legal action against Apple over its business practices. Epic Games, for instance, filed a lawsuit in the United States after it was forced off Apple’s App Store for redirecting customers to cheaper subscriptions and payments outside the App Store.

Big tech firms like Apple and Google have monopolised the app economy and continue to impose predatory policies on their app stores – such as forcing the use of their own payment systems – that harm the startup ecosystem and India’s developers. IOS and Android have a combined market share of 99.03% in India. Given their dominant position, their policies affect a large number of users and developers, and changes to their policies have a major impact on businesses.

“Both the gatekeepers of the app economy have been known to rig the game in their favour by indulging in abusive practices and abusing their dominant position. There is an urgent need to reign them in so that the interests of the scores of small players that make up the internet and app economy are protected,” said Sijo Kuruvilla George, the Executive Director of the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF).

By insisting on the usage of only its billing system, the big tech firms are ensuring they have an unfair advantage over other payment and billing systems. We need the CCI to study such practices by the big tech so that Indian developers can have a fair chance of fighting and surviving.

Anupam Mittal, the founder and CEO of Shaadi.com, said: “For the betterment and continued growth of the Indian startup ecosystem, it’s crucial that the internet, and specifically the app economy, is made fair, transparent and open. If the anti-competitive and monopolistic practices along with the gatekeeper policies of big tech firms are not kept in check, there is bound to be a detrimental impact on Indian entrepreneurs and businesses and ultimately the sovereignty of the country.”

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