Japan to regulate smartphone app stores to end Apple-Google duopoly

The Japanese government said Friday it plans to implement a new law that regulates smartphone app stores to promote easier market access for third-party developers and spur competition amid the Apple Inc. and Google LLC duopoly.

The envisaged law would make it mandatory for the dominant smartphone operating system providers to allow the entry of third-party app stores if they are deemed safe, government officials said.

At present, Google's Android and Apple's iOS dominate the operating system market, with customers having little choice but to use their respective Google Play and App Store portals.

Similarly, app developers have few options but to adhere to the policies and rules enforced on the two IT giants' selling platforms.

Due to the duopoly status, fees that app developers pay to app store operators remain inflated and the screening process is not sufficiently transparent, the officials said.

The situation also hinders innovation in mobile device apps and restricts consumer choice, they said.

However, the prospect of the development of new app stores has also raised safety concerns, with the protection of personal data and the spread of malicious apps a worry, they said.

The envisaged law would also ban operators from requiring app developers to use the platforms' payment infrastructure, the officials said, adding the imposition of penalties is being considered.

The strengthening of regulation comes after Google urged the Japanese government to take a cautious stance in light of consumers' interests and to not discourage developers' incentive to innovate.

After hearing of the government plan, Google's Japan office said in a statement, "We will deepen constructive discussions with related parties in the industry and the government."

© Kyodo News