On Thursday, a key Senate committee passed a bipartisan bill that could cost Apple and Google billions of dollars by weakening the corporations’ “twin monopolies” over their app marketplaces.
The Open App Markets bill would make it illegal for Apple and Google to force app developers to use their own payment systems, which charge up to 30% fees and bring in billions of dollars for both firms each year.
Companies would also have to allow consumers to download software from third-party app shops.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) co-sponsored the bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with flying colours, 21-2.
“For far too long, we have allowed these largest app stores, owned and managed by digital behemoths, to conduct anti-competitively,” Klobuchar added.
“Through their app stores, Apple and Google effectively control twin monopolies in app distribution.”
Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were among the senators who voted to move the bill (R-Utah). The bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration, where it might be voted on in the coming months. It also has a bipartisan House companion bill, which was introduced in August by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.).
The bill’s supporters argue that it would provide a much-needed boost to software developers, who claim that Apple and Google’s exorbitant payment costs unfairly take money out of their pockets. The costs have been lambasted by Spotify and Tinder owner Match Group, and are at the focus of an ongoing legal struggle between Epic Games and Fortnite maker Epic Games.
According to Senator Klobuchar, the bill would loosen Apple and Google’s “twin monopolies” over the app market.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was the bill’s lone original “no” vote, claiming that allowing users to download apps from third parties could pose a security concern.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) changed his vote to “no” later Thursday, his office informing The Washington Post that his first “yes” vote was an accident.
The “no” votes echoed Apple’s arguments, which claimed that the law would “erode” user security.
Apple’s senior government affairs director Timothy Powderly wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee members ahead of the vote, “The Open App Markets Act includes provisions that explicitly mandate alternative app stores and’sideloading,’ or the direct installation of software from the internet in a way that circumvents the privacy and security protections Apple has designed.” “These provisions would allow viruses, frauds, and data exploitation to spread on Apple’s protected platform for the first time.”