Big-tech firms that is Internet based companies and social media firms such as face book, whatsapp, apple, goggle, microsoft and even the amazon and netflix have been leveraging their tremendous market share to establish their own monopolies in their respective domains. In this regard the functioning of app store operators such as apple and google has come into question, as they are seeking to monopolize the app based economy. The global economy has largely turned into an app based economy because the consumers are availing various goods and services through apps or mobile applications, be it for ordering food, or for booking a cab, or for booking movie tickets or for shopping online. The consumers rely on mobile applications and all these mobile apps, which are developed by third party app developers, are placed on the app stores. There are app stores such as the play store of google or apple store of apple, where the consumers download theses third party applications to access digital commerce and to avail ourselves of these various economic services. So all the third party apps that are developed, they are stored on the app stores which are run and maintained by these big tech companies, that is goggle and apple and essentially they have become the gatekeepers, who are regulating access to the app based economy.
So this gives these companies tremendous powers as they not only get to monopolize the massive amounts of data that they are collecting but they can also leverage their dominant position in the market and misuse it to create an unfair advantage for themselves thereby placing the third party app developers at severe disadvantage because of their dominant position in the market and since they function as gatekeepers to the app based economy all the app developers are dependent on the app store operators and even we as consumers have come to entirely rely upon these app store operators. It has been noticed that these app store operators they have been forcing the other app developers to mandatorily make use of their instore payment system and if a third party app developer tries to develop their own payment system they are even removed from the app stores by citing their internal policies and terms and conditions. So such force full and mandatory usage of instore payment systems essentially qualifies to be seen as an anti-competitive, anti-trust policy which unfairly affects the app developers and allows the high-tech companies to establish a complete monopoly where they get to dominate the app based economy. Such anti-competitive, anti-trust practices of the big tech firms affects not just the small app developers and the third parties but it even has a significant impact on the consumer because such monopolization affects the choice that we have in the market. These companies which have a dominant position in the market they can choose to determine what kind of access and choice we as consumers have in the market.
This in turn stifles competition and even innovation and once choice and competition reduces automatically the cost will go up for the consumer because that is exactly what will happen in case of a monopoly so the third party applications developers and the small app developers and the consumers they would be placed at a severe disadvantage and they would be placed at the mercy of these monopolies. So this is a grave concern that has emerged with regard to functioning of big tech firms and around the world. The governments are seeking to take action against the big tech firms by bringing their policies and their services under the strict regulation. Recently South Korea became the first country to bring out one such regulatory policy which has been termed as the anti-google law. South Korea recently amended its telecommunications business act in order to prevent app store operators like google and apple from forcing app developers to mandatorily use there instore payment system. The law enacted by South Korea represents the global momentum that is gaining towards regulating the big tech monopolies. Even in Australia recently a law was brought out which mandates internet platform and social media firms like face book and the others to pay media outlets for publishing their content. Then in the European Union a draft law is being worked out on similar lines to regulate the functioning of big-tech firms like google, apple, facebook and the others have even faced several anti-trust, anti-competition investigations in the European jurisdictions.
In the United States as well, a group of senators have proposed a bill to regulate the functioning of the big-tech firms around the world, they are even facing several legal cases and legal challenges and in many jurisdictions anti-trust, anti-competition investigations have been opened against the big-tech companies.
Even in India and the Competition Commission of India is looking to open similar investigations against the likes of apple and google. So in this context, it is the right time to says that the time is right for India as well to follow the global trend and bring out an effective law to regulate the big tech companies which are seeking to establish their monopolies and create a legal framework especially to regulate the functioning of app store operators.
The Indian government has a recently extended support to the establishment of the Open Network for Digital Commerce, which is seeking to democratize e-commerce around the world and recently the Indian government has shown the willingness and intentions to further regulate internet and tech based companies. So if we have to protect the truly open and democratic nature of the internet, then governments will have to actively prevent the emergence of such monopolies which end up stifling choice competition and raising costs which affects the consumer and as well as the whole industry. Hence this is the appropriate opportunity which is calling upon India, to make use of this momentum to bring in adequate regulatory policies and laws to prevent the formation of these monopolies in order to protect technological innovation and the consumer choice in today’s app based economy.