Apple faces new legal requirements in UK, but likely easy to satisfy

Tech giants including Amazon, Google, and Apple face new legal requirements in the UK, under new legislation being introduced today.

While the penalties for breaching the planned law are severe – up to 10% of global turnover – Apple will likely find it relatively easy to comply …

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers bill will set higher standards for fair treatment of consumers, reports The Guardian.

Firms that are deemed to have “strategic market status” – such as tech firms Google and Apple, and online retailer Amazon – will be given strict rules on how to operate under the bill and face a fine representing up to 10% of global turnover if they breach the new regime […]

Firms could be required to open up their data to rival search engines or increase the transparency of how their app stores and review systems work.

In particular, the bill will tackle fake reviews, and so-called “subscription traps” – where it is easy for consumers to start a subscription, but difficult to end it.

The current draft provisions propose making it illegal to post fake reviews without checking that they are genuine, commission someone to write a fake review or offer to submit one […]

The legislation will also target so-called subscription traps in which businesses make it difficult for consumers to quit a contract. Under the new rules, which will not be limited to firms with strategic market status, companies must remind consumers when a free trial or low-cost introductory offer is coming to an end and ensure that a contract can be exited in a “straightforward, cost -effective and timely way”.

Enforcement will be run by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will also decide which companies qualify as having strategic market status. Since the CMA has already labeled Apple, Amazon, and Google as having market dominance for the purposes of other antitrust legislation, it’s a safe conclusion that they will also be in scope for this bill.

9to5Mac’s Take

Apple will potentially be affected in two ways, both in respect of the App Store.

First, Apple will need to ensure that consumers are alerted to subscription renewals, especially when a free trial period is coming to an end. As the company already sends alerts, with a link to cancel a subscription, it seems likely that the company will already be in full compliance with this requirement.

Second, given that Apple takes a cut of app sales, it will almost certainly share responsibility with developers for fake reviews, forcing it to take better steps to detect and remove these. Fake reviews are a growing problem, with bot-farms used to download apps and post machine-generated reviews, and this problem is only going to grow with new AI systems like ChatGPT able to generate more convincing text.

Here, Apple will need to take a more proactive approach for sure. The App Store has a fair number of obviously fake reviews, and so far the iPhone maker has shown little interest in blocking, detecting, and removing these. Given patterns in both the submission and (so far) content of fake app reviews, this shouldn’t be too great a technical challenge, so this will be a welcome move.

Photo: Mariia Shalabaieva/Unsplash

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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