Lawmakers Ask FTC To Regulate Apps

The ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-GA), and other lawmakers have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports of anticompetitive activity in the app marketplace.

In a letter to the FTC, Johnson pointed to a Washington Post report earlier in the year that showed a number of developers have raised concerns about anticompetitive practices, including “onerous conditions” applicable to competing apps, that could create an uneven playing field.

“It is critical that we promote and defend competition, even in markets that are highly innovative, to ensure that small entrants aren’t squeezed out through needlessly restrictive conditions and policies,” Johnson stated in the letter. “I strongly encourage the FTC to give this issue the close attention that it deserves.”

Johnson is joined on the bipartisan letter by U.S. Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Lamar Smith (R-TX), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Dave Trott (R-MI), who all expressed concerns in the letter that “these practices will stifle innovation and decrease channels for distributing the products of application and service developers, resulting in fewer and less cost-effective choices for consumers.”

Two of the issues the lawmakers highlighted include the fact that the global app marketplace is controlled by Google and Apple, given their app stores are the largest and the main ways app publishers bring their apps to the market. Combined, the two have market share of 97 percent around the world. The other concern: The app market favors the the larger players and is less about the little guys.

Addressing the FTC, Johnson went on to say: “It is our understanding that some independent and small technology developers have raised concerns with the Federal Trade Commission that the increasing difficulty that app developers have in reaching and communicating with customers in some app ecosystems may undermine competition in digital services and products distribution.”


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