South Korean Parliament committee votes to curb Google, Apple commission dominance

Apple and Google have faced global criticism for forcibly charging software developers commissions on in-app purchases. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - A South Korean parliamentary committee voted early on Wednesday (Aug 25) to recommend amending a law, a key step towards banning Google and Apple from forcibly charging software developers commissions on in-app purchases - the first such curb by a major economy.

After the vote from the legislation and judiciary committee to amend the Telecommunications Business Act, dubbed the Anti-Google law, the amendment will come to a final vote in Parliament.

That vote could come on Wednesday, although South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that Parliament would act at a later date.

A Parliament official told Reuters that the office had not yet received an official request not to hold the meeting on Wednesday.

Apple and Google have both faced global criticism because they require software developers using their app stores to use proprietary payment systems that charge commissions of up to 30 per cent.

In a statement on Tuesday, Apple said the Bill "will put users who purchase digital goods from other sources at risk of fraud, undermine their privacy protections", hurt user trust in App Store purchases and lead to fewer opportunities for South Korean developers.

Mr Wilson White, senior director of public policy at Google, said "the rushed process hasn't allowed for enough analysis of the negative impact of this legislation on Korean consumers and app developers".

Legal experts said app store operators could work with developers and other companies to create secure payment methods other than the ones they provide.

"Google and Apple aren't the only ones that can create a secure payment system," said Prof Lee Hwang, a Korea University School of Law professor specialising in competition law. "I think it's a problem to try to inspire excessive fear by talking about safety or security about using different payment methods."

Based on South Korean Parliament records, the amendment bans app store operators with dominant market positions from forcing payment systems on content providers and inappropriately delaying the review of, or deleting, mobile contents from app markets.

It also allows the South Korean government to require an app market operator to "prevent damage to users and protect the rights and interests of users", probe app market operators, and mediate disputes regarding payment, cancellations or refunds in the app market.

This month in the United States, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a Bill that would rein in app stores of companies that they said exert too much market control, including Apple and Google.

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