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The Biden Administration is going after Apple and Google for their “restrictive” practices.

The US government is seeking to force major changes to the two major mobile app models. This follows from a statement the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) made. That a statement calls the current mobile app store model is harmful to consumers and developers. It also recommends policy changes to fix it.

The agency says that Apple and Google “act as gatekeepers over the apps that people and businesses rely on”. This is due to their monopolistic models. They enforce policies that “have the potential to harm consumers by inflating prices and reducing innovation.” The move reflects current legislative trends in the EU, where regulators are also pushing app store operators to lift restrictions.

The NTIA announcement comes as the agency has released a report entitled ““Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem”. The report focuses squarely on Apple and Google. “These firms control vertically integrated distribution chains”, the report states. “These companies manage their app ecosystems differently, but they both play a significant gatekeeping role by controlling (and restricting) how apps are distributed”, they add.

Direct from the White House

NTIA’s report and recommendations are part of the Biden administration’s push to promote innovation and competition, and to level the economic playing field. NTIA is the president’s principal advisor on telecommunications and Internet policy.

Some of the measures the NTIA proposes to rectify the situation include letting consumers choose their own apps as defaults, use alternative mobile app stores, and delete or hide pre-installed apps. “App store operators should not be able to ‘“’self-preference’”’ their apps in an anticompetitive manner”, they add, saying that “operators should not be able to favor their own apps in how they appear in search results or discriminate against other apps that are similar to their own”.

Sideloading should be OK

A major recommendation is that operators “should lift restrictions on alternative ways for consumers to download and install apps”. They add that “legislative and regulatory measures should prohibit restrictions on sideloading, alternative app stores and web apps”. Apple’s Tim Cook has been a staunch opponent of allowing sideloading.

The statement and the report both note that “new legislation and additional antitrust enforcement actions are likely necessary to boost competition in the app ecosystem”.