Apple and Google won’t be able to stop third-party app stores in Japan

June 13, 2024
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Following in the footsteps of the European Union, Japan has now passed a law that will restrict Apple and Google from blocking third-party app stores for Japanese users on their platforms. The legislation is expected to come into force by the end of 2025 and aims to reduce app prices and create a more equitable market by forcing the tech giants to compete with smaller challengers.

Dubbed the Act on Promotion of Competition for Specified Smartphone Software, Japan’s law shares some similarities with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), enforcing strict rules against “designated providers.” That includes requiring their platforms to allow third-party app stores, allowing app developers to offer third-party billing services, and making it easier for users to change their default settings and web browsers. The law also prevents tech giants from prioritizing their own services in search results, something Google was targeted for under its own DMA enforcements.

Apple and Google have already been named designated providers, and any further additions will be selected by Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC). Providers that violate the rules face being fined up to 20 percent of the domestic revenue specific to the infringing service, which increases to 30 percent for repeat offenses.

At least one company is already celebrating the news, with Epic Games announcing plans to bring Fortnite and its game store platform to iOS in Japan in late 2025. The company is currently also working on bringing those services back to iOS in the EU “later this year,” following a hiccup where Apple banned (and then unbanned) its developer account.

Japan’s FTC said the changes were being introduced because it believes smartphone operating systems, app stores, browsers, and search engines are an “oligopoly market” that would take existing antimonopoly laws “a remarkably long time” to address. We have contacted Apple and Google for comment on the ruling but haven’t yet heard back.

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