U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Open App Markets Act for Senate Vote

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On February 3, the US Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Open App Markets Act for a vote on the Senate floor. The bipartisan antitrust bill would force Apple to allow app sideloading and alternative systems for in-app payments on iPhone.

The Open App Markets Act is the second competition bill approved by the Committee targeting Big Tech companies this year. The act was passed with only two senators serving no votes. The bill spearheaded by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn picked up support from Senator Mike Lee, among others. It addresses key concerns raised by Fortnite developer Epic Games, Spotify, etc., about Apple and Google’s app store fees and restrictions.

The bill saw resistance from Senators (representing California) Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla. The former expressed concerns that the Open App Markets Act was constructed to target companies in her state. Padilla was concerned the bill’s wording would make it harder for app stores to down-rank apps for hate speech. In the end, both senators voted to advance the bill.

To recall, the Senate Judiciary Committee greenlighted the American Innovation and Choice Online Act last month. The bill also intends to achieve the same goals and ensure tech giants don’t unfairly rank their offerings above others and discriminate against rivals. Both the rulings would compel Apple to allow sideloading of apps, opening the ecosystem to other app stores and marketplaces.

Apple urged the US Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the bill, arguing that allowing sideloading would jeopardize the privacy and security of iPhone and iPad users. In an open letter, Apple Senior Director of Government Affairs, Timothy Powderly wrote,

“We are deeply concerned that the legislation, unless amended, would make it easier for big social media platforms to avoid the pro-consumer practices of Apple’s App Store, and allow them to continue business as usual. It does so by mandating that Apple allow the sideloading of apps and app stores that need not comply with the App Store’s pro-consumer privacy protections.”

Google VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy Mark Isakowitz also voiced a similar sentiment earlier.

“This bill could destroy many consumer benefits that current payment systems provide and distort competition by exempting gaming platforms, which amounts to Congress trying to artificially pick winners and losers in a highly competitive marketplace.”

Do you think Apple and Google will succeed in lobbying the Senate to throw out the antitrust bills when they go up for a vote? Tell us in the comments.

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