NTIA Offers Blueprint for Mobile App Competition in Line with Public Knowledge’s Recommendations

New report finds that the current mobile app store model harms users and software developers while restraining digital competition.

Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued “Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem,” a report which finds that the current mobile app store model harms users and software developers and restrains digital competition.

The report follows President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order on Competition, which directed the NTIA to examine the mobile application ecosystem as part of a government-wide effort to promote a “fair, open, and competitive marketplace.” The Executive Order noted that “a small number of dominant Internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, [and] to extract monopoly profits.” The NTIA’s report offers policymakers a blueprint for addressing these harms in the mobile application market. Congress can act on it by passing the Open App Markets Act, a bill which achieved broad, bipartisan support last Congress.

The following statement can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge.

“This report is a detailed examination of the different ways that the anticompetitive practices of the dominant mobile platform providers, Apple and Google, can harm users, reduce innovation, and put up barriers that make it difficult or impossible for others to compete with their own services. 

“Informed by stakeholders across the industry, including user advocates, NTIA’s technical and economic expertise shows that many of the purported justifications for restrictions on things like mobile payments and software installation are groundless. The specific policy recommendations NTIA puts forward match what Public Knowledge recommended in its 2020 paper, ‘Tending the Garden: How to Ensure That App Stores Put Users First.’

“Platforms like iOS and Android are valuable because of their users as well as the community of software developers that turn clever devices into essential tools. Apple and Google deserve credit for their work in creating devices and operating systems that are more secure, and easier to use, than what came before. These companies have profited enormously from this – but they are not entitled to use their power to restrict user choice, collect unjustifiable fees, and prevent other companies from competing against them.

“This report comes at a crucial time. Regulators and courts around the world are taking steps to open up mobile platforms, remove bottlenecks, and enable fair competition. Last year, the ‘Open App Markets Act’ achieved broad, bipartisan support, but never made it to a vote in Congress. This report highlights the urgency of reform in this area. We urge Congress to act on its recommendations and pass this vital piece of legislation.”

You may view our recent white paper, “Tending the Garden: How to Ensure that App Stores Put Users First,” to learn more about our recommendations to promote the public interest in the app store market.