FAS PRESENTED A CONCEPT ON PREINSTALLING APPLICATIONS
On 25th January, 2019, the Antimonopoly Office drew a line in the discussion
During the period of discussion, there were meetings of FAS Expert Council on Information Technologies, meetings with software developers and device vendors; the Concept has been repeatedly reviewed and refined based on the comments made by the Working Group members.
The Working Group comprised software and equipment developers, communications operators, associations, legal firms (overall – more 30 organizations).
The Concept is devised to fulfill the Action Plan (Road Map) for developing competition in different sectors of the economy of the Russian Federation and transition of particular spheres of natural monopolies from the state of natural monopoly to the state of competitive market in 2018 - 2020, approved by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation, in accord with the Strategy for developing information society in the Russian Federation in 2017 - 2030, approved by the Order of the President of Russia on the main directions of the state policy for developing competition, “Informational Security” Federal Project of the “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation” National Project.
“In FAS opinion, the Concept meets the goals of competition development, protection of consumer interest, securing national interests in the course of developing informational society, ensuring competitiveness of Russian information and communications technologies at the international level. The Concept specifies two aspects:
1. Requirements to user (subscriber) communications equipment on preinstalled Russian software products (service applications) of similar functionalities, including software products
2. Requirements to user communications equipment, enabling full removability of preinstalled products, except service products that support equipment performance”, said Deputy Head of FAS Anatoly Golomolzin.
FAS formed the Concept in view of the practice of investigating antimonopoly cases and market entry barriers exposed during case investigations. In particular, as established by FAS investigating an antimonopoly case against “Google”, preinstalled mobile applications are the most efficient channel to disseminate applications to the end users. Pre-installment as the most efficient channel is used by operational systems developers on a priority basis. Devices circulate on the global market, and for Russian developers, who do not distribute their products all over the world, it is very difficult to “enter” the pre-installment channel and compete with the owners of the global operational systems.
“Thus, global companies gained a competitive advantage to promote their own applications and services, using the product tying practice. Absence of a possibility for consumers to remove pre-installed applications reinforces competitive advantages”, pointed out Head of FAS Department for Regulating Communications and Information Technologies, Elena Zaeva.
The concept is designed to:
- Enable Russian developers to enter the “pre-installment channel” along with the products of global companies, so that consumers themselves can choose what to use;
- Enable consumers to make a choice, which applications they want and do not want to see in their devices. Certainly, applications that are necessary for device functioning and operational system performance must not be removed.
Devising the Concept, members of the Working Group were asked to determine the categories of the equipment that must meet the pre-installment and removal requirements, and classes of pre-installed software. So far, there are four such software classes:
- software for internet search (browsers, independent search applications, applications supporting general on-line search functionalities as functionalities in other applications);
- antivirus software;
- software for user geo-positioning (maps, navigators);
- software with the function of exchanging e-messages between users of an informational system.
Device manufacturers choose software vendors, and the pre-installment procedure.
In FAS opinion, the Concept will enable equal conditions of market operations by Russian developers and protect consumer interests.
For example, recently information appeared in mass media that Samsung users are dissatisfied due to inability to remove Facebook from their smartphones: Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones have a pre-installed Facebook application that is impossible to remove. Users’ concern is caused, in particular, by scandals around this social media related to confidentiality of its users’ data. Even without these concerns, application users still should be able to remove software that they do not wish to use.
Since other models from the same manufacturer do not have a preinstalled non-removable Facebook, the application, most likely, is not essential for functioning of either Android operational system or the smartphone – so why can’t users remove the application if they have no desire to use it?
During the discussion, the members of the Working Group presented their positions on the fact of devising the Concept and its particular provisions. RATEK [the Association of Trading Companies and Manufacturers of Electrical Household and Computer Equipment] was totally against the measures suggested by FAS, representatives of foreign software and equipment vendors (“Apple”, “Microsoft”, “Intel”) also voiced negative opinions.
Russian developers, communications operators, legal firms (“Mail”, “Kaspersky Laboratory”, “MTS”, “MegaFon”, “RUSSOFT”) supported the Concept stating that the proposed measures will facilitate development of competition on the market.
FAS will refine the Concepts based on the constructive comments given throughout the discussion. A package of amendments to the law will be drafted and forwarded to the Ministry of Communications.
“We shall also take into account international experience of similar regulation in other countries: South Korea and China that are some of the largest equipment suppliers”, pointed out Deputy Head of FAS Anatoly Golomolzin.