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JFTC opens new antitrust investigation against Apple, Google’s mobile OS platforms

JFTC opens new antitrust investigation against Apple, Google’s mobile OS platforms
Photo Credit: Pixabay
8 Oct, 2021

After banning tech giants Apple and Google from forcing their payments systems on developers, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has opened a new antitrust investigation against the two companies. The probe seeks to find why competition in the OS market has remained static.

The JFTC will also work with the country’s Digital Market Competition Council during the probe. According to a report by Nikkei Asia, the antitrust watchdog’s new investigation will include interviews and surveys with other OS operators, app developers and more. It will itemize practices found to be anticompetitive and other possible violations of Japan’s anti-monopoly laws.

In September, Apple entered a landmark agreement with the JFTC, and agreed to allow some app developers to bypass its built-in payments systems. This includes so-called “reader apps”, which include streaming apps like Netflix and Spotify and newspaper companies. Before the agreement, Apple and Google both required all app developers selling services and digital items through their stores, to pay the companies a 30% commission. They reduced the commission to 15% for apps earning less than $1 million per year earlier this year, but have still faced backlash from developers.

At the time, the JFTC was investigating Apple for “restricting business activities, such as selling digital contents, of enterprises that distribute applications based on App Store Review Guidelines”. The agreement came days after South Korea passed a law that banned companies like Apple and Google from forcing their payment systems on app developers. 

Though rulings by the JFTC and South Korea are valid only in those countries, the decisions have been hailed by developers worldwide. Indian developers had approached the Competition Commision of India (CCI) in October last year, complaining about such policies. While Indian developers have mostly complained against Google. “It’s not like we’re partial to Apple or anything. Google is such a dominant player in India with 90-95% market share, which is why we have taken up Google (so far)," Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Matrimony.com, told Mint after the JFTC development last month.

A little-known non-profit in Rajasthan, called Together We Fight Society, had also filed an information with the CCI against Apple’s app-store payments last month. The CCI had reached out to 17 startups in November last year, following their complaint against Google.