A new bill aimed at power technology companies like Apple and Google in the app store market was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.
The two parties “Open the Application Market Act, Presented by sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would ban app stores from forcing developers to use store payment systems. It would also prevent companies from penalizing developers who offer lower prices in a separate app store or through their own payment systems, in line with Apple’s public dispute with Epic Games. The bill would also make it illegal for companies like Apple to use non-public information in their stores to build competing products against companies that use their services.
“For years, Apple and Google have been harassing competitors and keeping consumers in the dark — pocketing high winds, while presumably acting as benevolent gateways in this multibillion-dollar market,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “This two-party bill will help break the iron grip on these technology giants, open up the application economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices.”
Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee pulled representatives from companies like Spotify, Tile, and Match Group, a dating app company, to explain how Apple’s and Google’s app store policies and fees harm their business.
In particular, Kirsten Daru, Tile’s General Counsel, said that when Apple decided to manufacture its own competing target tracking device, the company made it difficult for Tile products to work with the devices. Jared Sine, Match’s General Counsel, also said app store fees are the company’s largest single expense.
“We have worked to create a fairer and more competitive app market for both developers and consumers,” said The Coalition for App Fairness, which counts as a member of Epic Games. “The two-party Open Applications Market Act is a step toward holding large technology companies accountable for practices that stifle competition for developers in the U.S. and around the world.
However, technically backed incubators such as the Chamber for Progress argue that the bill could pose a safety risk to consumers. “This bill is a finger in the eyes of everyone who bought an iPhone or Android because phones and their app stores are safe, reliable and easy to use,” Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the Chamber of Progress, said on Wednesday. “I don’t see any consumers marching in Washington urging Congress to make their smartphones stupid.”
Last year, Fortnite creator of Epic Games sued the App Store model in lawsuits against Apple and Google, seeking a court-imposed ban that would have similar effects to the proposed law. A federal judge is currently reviewing Apple’s case to determine whether the company has violated competition law by complying with these practices. Nearly 40 state ministers of justice have also sued Google over its app store model.