Big Tech, say hello to Big Bipartisanship. A new across-the-aisle congressional bill has been drafted in an attempt to regulate how digital app stores are run.
U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN.), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Open App Markets Act -- a bill designed to “promote competition and reduce gatekeeper power in the app economy, increase choice, improve quality, and reduce costs for consumers.”
In the crosshairs are Apple and Google, the two biggest companies that the trio of legislators feel have gatekeeper control over the app market. The lawmakers say the control the companies have allows them to call all the shots and keep other app resellers picking up what scraps they can. Together, Apple and Google have 5.7 million apps that produced $110.9 billion in sales in 2020.
“Big Tech giants are forcing their own app stores on users at the expense of innovative start-ups,” said Sen. Blackburn. “Apple and Google want to prevent developers and consumers from using third-party app stores that would threaten their bottom line. Their anticompetitive conduct is a direct affront to a free and fair marketplace. Senators Blumenthal, Klobuchar, and I are committed to ensuring U.S. consumers and small businesses are not punished by Big Tech dominance.”
Blumenthal said the legislation is intended to “tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller startup tech companies a fighting chance.” He also said the bill will “give mobile users more control over their own devices.”
This will take a while
Keep in mind that this legislation has only been introduced. It still has to pass in the Senate and the House before finally getting President Biden’s signature. Given their historic sales trends, Google and Apple can sell a lot of apps before the act becomes law.
In the meantime, the companies have other app store issues to deal with. The European Union has been relentless in punishing Apple over issues with its App Store. In March, it launched an investigation over unfair App Store dominance. It followed that up with accusations in April that the company was breaking antitrust rules with its App Store policies.
Google hasn’t had it any easier. In the U.S., the company was hit with an antitrust lawsuit filed by 37 states that claimed the Google Play Store is an illegal monopoly. Like Apple, it was also targeted by the E.U. earlier this summer for allegedly abusing its ad tech power.