DAVIS: Big Tech Wants You To Ignore The App Market Duopoly

November 23, 2022


National Review recently published an op-ed claiming that the bipartisan Open App Markets Act (OAMA) would “break” the app industry and “empower scam artists and endanger everyday consumers.” The piece repeatedly invoked Big Tech talking points like these to scare readers into believing the status quo of the app marketplace duopoly is completely acceptable, and any attempt to reform it would bring about the end of days.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone paying attention. Big Tech companies have spent unfathomable sums of money to evade accountability and prevent real competition. The truth is that the Open Apps Markets Act would ensure the app marketplace is freer, fairer, more competitive, and more accessible to small businesses.

In today’s app market, Google and Apple, which have a combined market capitalization of $4 trillion, control 99% of the app marketplace and use their gatekeeper control to their own advantage at the expense of smaller companies and startup apps. 

The claim OAMA would empower scam artists and endanger consumers has been debunked numerous times. In reality, OAMA would allow consumers to simply download apps directly to their mobile devices the same way they do on their Mac desktop or laptop computers. 

The failed status quo currently allows these companies to force consumers into downloading apps exclusively from their app stores and utilize their payment services, resulting in fewer options and inflated prices. It is worth noting that the two companies’ app stores are already littered with scam apps, and they have no incentive to fix this problem because there is no competition to their duopoly. The Washington Post reported scam apps from the Apple App Store have “bilked consumers out of an estimated $48 million.” Apple even profits from these scams as they take a cut of all revenue generated from the App Store.

The piece also commended Apple and Google for charging service fees for in-app transactions to cover development and other aspects of maintaining the marketplaces. It neglected to mention that nothing in OAMA would prevent Apple from charging for these services. Instead, OAMA provides developers with additional options to distribute their products through other channels.

The piece criticizes conservative sponsors, calling Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Cynthia Lumis, Marsha Blackburn, and John Kennedy “otherwise dependable conservative Republican senators.”

What this actually does is further demonstrate the broad support for OAMA and emphasizes the need for real reform. There are very few issues in today’s divisive political environment that garner bipartisan support. Liberal darlings like Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal joined forces with Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley because there is a groundswell of grassroots support for breaking up Big Tech and ending the app marketplace duopoly.

It is false to claim that under OAMA – Apple and Google would be prohibited from citing an app’s privacy or security features as a pretext to exclude them from being featured on their platforms. The bill specifically allows for the removal of apps that cause spam, fraud, or security concerns. The difference would be that the burden of proof would fall on the Big Tech companies.

The piece suggests the passage of OAMA would be the equivalent of forcing Walmart to “place every T-shirt and book on their shelves,” or Safeway to “carry every variety of cereal.” This flawed logic exposes a fundamental lack of understanding of what OAMA would do, while failing to grasp the reality of the app ecosystem. 

OAMA does not mandate that Apple and Google feature every app on their marketplaces. And unlike food and clothing industries, where you can sell t-shirts and cereal at any number of stores, there is only one app store for Android devices and one App store for Apple devices. The two entities are also siloed from one another, and you can’t download an app from one company’s marketplace and use it on the other device. 

More importantly, there are no viable alternatives to Apple and Google operating systems on mobile devices, and they control 99 percent of the market. They showed their duopoly in action just last year with the swift, politically motivated takedown of Parler. That wasn’t about protecting consumers, it was about inflicting financial misery on someone deemed to be a political opponent. At any moment, Apple and Google could decide to freeze an app or app developer out of the entire marketplace—maybe even Twitter for allowing online free speech. Ending this duopoly would create more competition, which would benefit the market and the consumer, just as it does in any other industry. 

The Open App Markets Act would break up Big Tech’s stranglehold on the app marketplace and finally allow small businesses to compete. Don’t let Big Tech convince you otherwise. Conservatives–and all Americans–should demand their Member of Congress support legislation to rein in Big Tech, including the Open App Markets Act.

Mike Davis is the founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization that opposes Big Tech and seeks to hold these companies accountable for their bad acts. He was previously chief counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA.

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