It’s been a few months since the last bill tried to break Apple and Google’s app store monopoly on their respective platforms. Now, a bipartisan bill seeks to bring more competition to the app store market and would require Apple to open the iPhone to third-party app stores and sideloading.
As reported by CNBC, the Open App Markets Acts is led by senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The bill targets in-app payment systems for companies that own app stores with more than 50 million users in the US. According to the bill, Apple and Google wouldn’t be able to force the distribution of an app on their app stores or with their in app-payment system.
Apart from requiring third-party app stores, the bill would allow for apps to be sideloaded.
The legislation does leave room for platforms to make the case that its in-app payment system is necessary for security purposes. The bill says that any platform covered by the legislation would not be in violation if an action is necessary for user privacy or security, a fraud prevention effort or a way to comply with federal or state law.
With the Epic vs. Apple case, Apple stated several times that letting third-party app stores would make iOS less secure. The company also said that this is why it doesn’t allow sideloaded apps either.
Tim Cook also said in an interview that what Epic wanted to create would be a “flea market”:
At the heart of the Epic complaint is they’d like developers to each put in their own payment information. But that would make the App Store a flea market and you know the confidence level you have at the flea market.
The volume of people going into such a market would be dramatically lower, which would be bad for the user, because they would miss out on the innovation like we just heard with the four developers. And the developers would be left out because they wouldn’t have a huge audience to sell to. So nobody wins in that environment.
Although it has been reported over and over that the App Store still approves scam apps, the company thinks it should centralize where users can download and buy apps.
To minimize this situation, Apple created the Small Business Program, which lowers the App Store commission to 15% for developers who earned up to $1 million in proceeds during the previous calendar year.
But developers still complain about Apple and Google commissions, saying that they are “unreasonably high.”
Apple has not yet commented about this bill.
Update: Spotify sent a statement about this bipartisan bill:
“Spotify applauds the bipartisan leadership of Senators Klobuchar, Blumenthal, and Blackburn for introducing the Open App Markets Act and for their courage and resolve in holding Apple and other gatekeeper platforms accountable for their unfair and anti-competitive practices.
These platforms control more commerce, information, and communication than ever before, and the power they exercise has huge economic and societal implications.
That’s why we urge Congress to swiftly pass the Open App Markets Act. Absent action, we can expect Apple and others to continue changing the rules in favor of their own services, and causing further harm to consumers, developers, and the digital economy.”
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