The Coalition for App Fairness (CAF), a newly formed advocacy group pushing for increased regulation over app stores, has more than doubled in size with today’s announcement of 20 new partners — just one month after its launch.
For months the complaints from tech companies against Apple’s and Google’s power have grown louder. Spotify criticized Apple for the rules it imposed in the App Store. A founder of the software company Basecamp attacked Apple’s “highway robbery rates” on apps. And last month, Epic Games, maker of the popular game Fortnite, sued Apple and Google, claiming they violated antitrust rules. Now these app makers are uniting in an unusual show of opposition against Apple and Google and the power they have over their app stores. The CAF is a nonprofit group based in Washington, DC that plans to push for changes in the app stores and “protect the app economy.” The 13 initial members include Spotify, Basecamp, Epic and Match Group, which has apps like Tinder and Hinge.
The new partners include development studio Beonex, health app Breath Ball, social app Challenge by Eristica, shopping app Cladwell, fitness app Down Dog Yoga, developer tool Gift Card Offerwall, game maker Green Heart Games, app studio Imagine BC, business app Passbase, music app Qobuz, lifestyle app QuackQuack and Qustodio, game Safari Forever, news app Schibsted, app studio Snappy Mob, education app SpanishDict, navigation app Sygic, app studio Vertical Motion, education app YARXI, and the Mobile Marketing Association.
CAF now includes members from Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States.
The group says on it’s site : “We urge them [stores] to recognize that every app developer, regardless of size or the nature of the developer’s business, is entitled to fair treatment by these app stores and the platform owners who operate them, and should be afforded the following rights:” Then lists 10 principles, including allowing purchases from other stores, reduced fees, and transparency. They also accuse Apple of monopolistic behavior.
At the heart of the new alliance’s effort is opposition to Apple’s and Google’s tight control over their app stores and the fate of the apps in them. The two companies control virtually all of the world’s smartphones through their software and the distribution of apps via their stores. Both also charge a 30 percent fee for payments made inside apps in their systems. App makers have increasingly taken issue with the payment rules, arguing that a 30 percent fee is a tax that hobbles their ability to compete. In some cases, they have said, they are competing with Apple’s and Google’s own apps and their unfair advantages.
Down Dog Yoga also recently made waves by calling out Apple for rejecting its app because it refused to auto-charge customers at the end of its free trial.
Apple and Google booted Epic Game’s Fortnite from their app stores last month for violating their payment rules.
Apple didn’t directly comment on the group’s launch, but it did release new resources, including a redesign of its About the App Store page that details its benefits, the addition of a page that focused specifically on developer benefits, an overview of the advantages provided by its app developer program and a new site that explains its Apple Video Partner program and how to apply.
This raises a a number of questions about e-commerce and safety. Maybe the most important is: Who should regulate apps for quality, security, fairness, and content? The EU has made steps in that direction, and taken action, but the US hasn’t so far.
Even if the business practices of the giants are made fair, how can you tell if an app from a 3rd party is safe to use? Much to consider. Stay tuned.