WASHINGTON D.C.: In a landslide vote, the bipartisan Open App Markets bill targeting the “twin monopolies” of Apple and Google over their app stores was advanced by a key Senate committee.
The bill would bar the two tech giants from requiring app developers to use their own payments systems, which charge commissions of up to 30 percent.
It would also require the companies to let users download apps from third-party app stores.
“We have let these largest app stores, owned and run by digital giants, act anti-competitively for far too long. Apple and Google basically operate twin monopolies in app distribution through their app stores,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, one of the sponsors of the bill.
The bill will advance to the full Senate, where it could receive a vote in the coming months. It also has an accompanying bipartisan House version, introduced in August.
The bill’s backers claim it will help app developers, who argue that high payment fees charged by Apple and Google unfairly harm revenues.
These fees are at the center of the ongoing legal battle between Fortnite developer Epic Games, and have also been criticized by Spotify and Tinder owner Match Group.
The only initial “no” vote on the bill came from Senator John Cornyn, who said that letting users download apps from third parties could pose cybersecurity risks.
Apple has argued that the bill would “erode” user security.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members ahead of the vote, Apple senior government affairs director Timothy Powderly wrote, “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 malware, scams, and data-exploitation to proliferate for the first time on Apple’s secure platform.”
In January, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance another antitrust bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would ban companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple from prioritizing their own products in search results.
Ahead of the vote, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai personally called senators to ask them to vote against the bill, which passed 16-6.