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Lawmakers form unusual alliance for bipartisan bill targeting Apple, Google

Ailan Evans, DCNF

Senators from both parties introduced a bill Wednesday targeting alleged anticompetitive conduct among Apple and Google app stores.

The Open App Markets Act, introduced Wednesday by Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn along with Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar, would prevent app stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store from requiring developers to use the tech giants’ in-app payment systems as a condition of distribution. The bill would also stop Apple and Google from taking “punitive action” against developers who offer different pricing terms in other app stores.

“This legislation will tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller startup tech companies a fighting chance,” Blumenthal said in a joint statement.

The legislation would force Apple and Google to allow users to download apps that run on the tech giants’ operating systems from third-party app stores.

“Apple and Google want to prevent developers and consumers from using third-party app stores that would threaten their bottom line,” Blackburn said. “Their anticompetitive conduct is a direct affront to a free and fair marketplace.”

The legislation would also prevent app stores from giving preference to their own products in search results and require Apple and Google to provide developers with open access to their operating systems.

A wide range of antitrust advocates endorsed the bill, viewing it as an important first step in reining in Big Tech’s anticompetitive conduct.

“The Open App Markets Act takes a serious crack at breaking up Big Tech monopolies and increasing competition and innovation, all while protecting user privacy,” president of the Internet Accountability Project Mike Davis said in the statement, while senior legislative counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Ernesto Falcon said the bill “will lower the costs for both developers and their customers by setting forth common sense competition policy for the industry.”

Members of the House Judiciary Committee advanced six bills in June that targeted similar anti-competitive practices, with the American Choice and Innovation Online Act taking aim at platforms giving preference to their own services and the ACCESS Act requiring tech companies to make it easier for users to transport personal data to other platforms.

A group of 36 state attorneys general sued Google in July over alleged anticompetitive conduct in its Play Store, arguing its in-app payment system allowed it to illegally maintain a monopoly in Android app distribution.

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