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Apple and Google protest against Australia's proposed antitrust reforms

Apple has formally told Australian authorities that it has "serious concerns" with proposed App Store antitrust conclusions, while Google says they could cause "unintended harm."

Following its examination of app store policies, and then considering legislation to open up those stores, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a discussion paper on the topic. That ACCC paper was published in February, and while Apple and Google's responses were filed in early April, they have only now been publicly revealed.

Apple says its own "serious concerns about the implementation of [proposed] regulatory reforms," include how it believes the ACCC is trying to reform issue that do not exist.

"[Some] reforms are directed at addressing hypothetical (rather than existing) problems insofar as conduct attributable to Apple is concerned," says Apple's full filing. "[The] real-world market outcomes which will result from the proposed 'reforms' relevant to Apple, if they are implemented in the form proposed, would reduce incentives for dynamic firms like Apple to innovate and develop new and differentiated products..."

The filing further says these reforms "would force Apple to redesign the iPhone" in ways that would "ultimately benefit only... a handful of powerful developers whose primary goal is to remove the [App Store's] protections for consumers."

"Apple is puzzled that the competition and consumer protection agency would prioritize purported competition concerns which lack cogent evidence of harm, over clear and present severe damage to users that they experience every day," it continues.

Google's full filing says that it supports the ACCC's vision of protecting consumers, while encouraging innovation. However, it concurs with Apple about how the proposals cover "conduct that is merely speculated as a theoretical possibility."

"Any new regulatory framework should only seek to tackle and prevent unambiguous

harm arising from a lack of competition," says Google. "Any new framework should focus on addressing only types of conduct that can be shown to be unambiguously harmful, and which are not capable of being addressed by existing laws."

Epic Games has also filed a submission regarding the ACCC's proposals, and it backs the regulator's plans. Forcing Apple and Google to allow alternative app stores would result in "a more open ecosystem that gives consumers and developers better choice and value," says Epic.

Microsoft also backs the ACCC in its own full filing. Microsoft says that in its experience, Apple and Google policies "either prevent us entirely from offering competitive cloud game streaming apps to mobile users, or limit services such as the use of alternative in-app purchase payment processing systems."

Australia's non-profit Digital Industry Group Inc (DiGi), however, agrees that the proposals are unnecessary. DiGi lobbies on behalf of Apple, Google, and more, and says in its full submission that the proposals "would lack the depth, breadth and clarity to be suitably comprehensive."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is expected to make a recommendation to government at the end of September 2022.