Senators Richard Blumenthal, Marsha Blackburn, and Amy Klobuchar filed new bipartisan antitrust legislation today aimed at Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. The Open App Markets Act [PDF] is intended to provide “fair, clear, and enforceable standards” to safeguard competition and increase consumer rights. Apple and Google, according to the three senators, have “gatekeeper control” over the two primary mobile operating systems and their app stores, allowing them to set the rules of the app market.
New U.S. antitrust law would require Apple and Google to allow third-party application stores and side loading
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Under the terms of the bill, which applies to companies that own or control an App Store with more than 50,000,000 users, Apple would not be able to require developers to use its own in-app purchase system, and it would be required to allow developers to distribute apps through alternative app stores. Apple would need to provide “readily accessible means” for iPhone users to install third-party apps or app stores outside of Apple’s own App Store, and it would need to let customers choose third-party apps and app stores as their defaults while also hiding standard Apple apps.
In a statement, Blumenthal said that the legislation would break the competitive hold that Apple and Google have over the app market while providing mobile users with more control over their devices. “This legislation will tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller startup tech companies a fighting chance. For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark–pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market. I’m proud to partner with Senators Blackburn and Klobuchar in this breakthrough blow against Big Tech bullying. This bipartisan bill will help break these tech giants’ ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices.”
“Since our founding, we’ve always put our users at the center of everything we do, and the App Store is the cornerstone of our work to connect developers and customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy. The result has been an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states. At Apple, our focus is on maintaining an App Store where people can have confidence that every app must meet our rigorous guidelines and their privacy and security is protected.”
Blackburn said that Apple and Google’s refusal to allow for third-party App Stores is a “direct affront to a free and fair marketplace, and Klobuchar said that the legislation levels the playing field and will ensure an “innovative and competitive marketplace.” In an interview with Reuters, Blumenthal said that he found the “predatory abuse” of the two companies “deeply offensive on so many levels.” He said that he expects companion legislation in the House of Representatives “very soon.”
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