EGDF defends third-party mobile application stores in an EU commission workshop

EGDF was invited as a panellist to the third Digital Markets Act Stakeholder Workshop organised on 6 March 2023. The workshop focused on app store related provisions of the DMA and discussed how to ensure effective compliance with the Digital Markets Act. 

EGDF called the commission to secure that Apple and Google do not kill the emerging third-party application stores with alternative fees. Apple and Google must not be allowed to abuse their dominant market position to kill emerging third-party markets with almost 30% alternative fees that would make it financially unsustainable to launch any third-party application store. The Commission should carefully investigate when alternative fees, for example, should be considered anticircumvention behaviour and when they violate fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory general conditions. If Apple and Google are allowed to introduce alternative fees and other conditions of access to their platforms, these fees and conditions must be the same, reasonable, non-discriminatory, and fair for all apps and content.

EGDF approach on how to balance risks brought by direct downloading with the competition benefits introduced by DMA

We need measures that are strictly focused and limited – minimum mandatory safety and security measures. In order to be able to install directly downloaded apps, it is justifiable and proportionate, for trust, privacy, security and safety reasons, to demand that all developers verify that they are who they claim to be and scan the apps for malware. These actions should be strictly limited to necessary and justified legal compliance, trust, privacy, security and safety measures.

The following actions can not be considered necessary, justified and proportionate: 

  1. Censorship: Protecting the integrity of the app ecosystem should not be used as an excuse for censorship. Gatekeepers should not be allowed to block access to application stores that allow content they consider “poor taste” by non-European standards.
  2. Blocking innovation: Protecting the integrity of the app ecosystem should not be used as an excuse for blocking business and technological innovation in Europe.  In 2016, for example, Apple banned all crypto-mining apps and exchanges, not just the ones that did not fulfil European regulatory requirements. 
  3. Blocking competing products: The protection of the integrity of the app ecosystem should not be used as an excuse for blocking competing applications. Apple has for years blocked all mobile cloud gaming platforms and game subscription services competing with its AppleArcade service from its application store.   
  4. Blocking European standards or self/co-regulatory actions: Apple, for example, does not allow game developers to use European co-regulatory PEGI age rating to protect minors. Instead, they force game developers to use their own Apple age rating system that does not allow European game developers to follow European legal standards. For example,  the maximum Apple age rating is an “over 17” rating, whereas some EU member states would require an “over 18” age rating.
  5. Blocking in-app communication and marketing features: As required under DMA art. 5(4), gatekeepers must not be allowed to block directly downloaded apps from using or communicating with their users about an option to use third-party payment systems.  

We need fair competition based on trust – trusted third-party application stores as a solution

  1. Apple and Google should create specific programs for trusted third-party application stores that commit to high-security standards, following European platform, consumer and privacy rules, taking down fraudulent apps (e.g. copycat games), taking down games violating copyrights, etc. Effective use of third-party application stores means that downloading apps from trusted application stores should follow exactly the same procedure as those downloaded from Apple Appstore or Google Playstore. 
  2. Only apps that are directly downloaded from the web should receive extra security prompts. Those prompts should be reasonable and proportional and provide information that enables the consumer to determine whether they trust the publisher. The prompts should not be so numerous as to make it inconvenient for users to directly install software that they trust nor should the prompts deploy language intended to scare users or inaccurately suggest that installing an application is dangerous.
  3. As stated in the DMA art. 6 (7),  the trusted third-party application stores should have access to and be interoperable with the same operating system-level features as the Apple Appstore or Google Playstore. These features include, for example, parental control tools and player’s subscription management tools. 

Read the full statement form here:

You can access the EGDF approach on platforms from here: