Making them pay: on regulating app store operators

A law to regulate app store operators is key to check Big Tech’s monopolising nature

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But that is not all. In the U.S., last month, three Senators brought in a Bill much along the same lines. Introduced by Democrats Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar, and Republican Marsha Blackburn, it aims “To promote competition and reduce gatekeeper power in the app economy, increase choice, improve quality, and reduce costs for consumers.” All this is happening in the backdrop of the pending verdict in the well-known case in which Epic Games, the company behind ‘Fortnite’, sued Apple on this very issue. The legal move was triggered after Apple ousted Epic from its platform for putting up its own payment system, bypassing Apple’s. The app store operators are clearly on the back foot the world over. In India too, the angst of app developers has been evident in recent times. According to a report, Apple is facing an antitrust challenge in India from a Rajasthan-based non-profit called ‘Together We Fight Society’ on this issue. It remains to be seen if the regulator, the Competition Commission of India, orders an investigation. Last year, it started investigations into similar allegations against Google. A law to regulate app store operators is not a drastic departure from this government’s thinking on such issues. Only recently, it promoted the setting up of the Open Network for Digital Commerce to “democratise e-commerce” and “to provide alternatives to proprietary e-commerce sites”. The challenge, however, is to protect the smaller sellers and developers without undermining the ecosystem for technological innovation.

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