On Friday, April 22, 2022, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the Department of Commerce, issued a request for comment (RFC) on the state of competition in the mobile app marketplace. According to the RFC, the record developed will be used to inform the Biden Administration’s competition agenda, including a report on competition in the mobile app ecosystem. Comments are due on May 23, 2022.
The RFC was issued in the wake of Executive Order 14036 (Promoting Competition in the American Economy), which was issued last summer and directed the Secretary of Commerce, in collaboration with the Attorney General and Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, to conduct a study through “an open and transparent stakeholder consultation process” of the mobile app marketplace and to submit a report that includes “findings and recommendations for improving competition, reducing barriers to entry, and maximizing user benefit with respect to ecosystems.” While the Executive Order directed the Department of Commerce to conduct its study and submit the resulting report to the White House Competition Council within one year of the date of the Executive Order (July 9, 2021), the RFC itself does not specify a deadline for the publication of the report.
According to the RFC, this study is not intended to assess the legality of existing practices in the app marketplace but rather provide further information on whether certain practices or rules “make it harder to open and run businesses or . . . harm innovation.” The RFC seeks input on a broad list of questions concerning the environment in which apps, app developers, app distributors, app users, and others operate, so as to develop a better understanding of competition in the mobile app marketplace.
The report, once completed, likely will inform the Biden Administration’s position on legislation or rules to facilitate further competition in the mobile app marketplace. Various bills and proposals along these lines already have been introduced in Congress, including the Open App Markets Act (S.2710), which would establish rules concerning the operation of app stores by certain companies, and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (H.R.3816), which would prohibit certain large online platforms from engaging in specified acts deemed unfair by the Act.