Senators introduced the “Open App Markets Act” to limit monopolies in smartphone app stores.
Proposed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the legislation would “set fair, clear, and enforceable rules to protect competition and strengthen consumer protections within the app market.”
A press release from Blackburn’s office specifically implicated Google and Apple for exercising “gatekeeper control of the two dominant mobile operating systems and their app stores that allow them to exclusively dictate the terms of the app market, inhibiting competition and restricting consumer choice.”
“Big Tech giants are forcing their own app stores on users at the expense of innovative start-ups,” argued Blackburn in the release. “Apple and Google want to prevent developers and consumers from using third-party app stores that would threaten their bottom line. Their anti-competitive conduct is a direct affront to a free and fair marketplace.”
“Competition is critical to protecting small businesses and consumers, spurring innovation, and promoting economic equity,” added Klobuchar. “But as mobile technologies have become essential to our daily lives, it has become clear that a few gatekeepers control the app marketplace, wielding incredible power over which apps consumers can access. This raises serious competition concerns.”
The bill would protect developers’ rights to:
- Tell consumers about lower prices and offer competitive pricing
- Protect sideloading of apps
- Open up competitive avenues for startup apps, third-party app stores, and payment services
- Make it possible for developers to offer new experiences that take advantage of consumer device features
- Prevent app stores from disadvantaging developers
The pending Open App Markets Act is the latest piece of bipartisan legislation meant to crack down on leading technology companies. While Democrats are generally concerned about the growing power of large corporations in the United States, Republicans emphasize technology platforms’ willingness to censor conservative-leaning content.
In June, a group of House members from both parties introduced a suite of regulations that would break up Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
The five bills were as follows:
- The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prohibit “discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms, including a ban on self-preferencing and picking winners and losers online.”
- The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act prohibits “competitive threats by dominant platforms, as well acquisitions that expand or entrench the market power of online platforms.”
- The Ending Platform Monopolies Act eliminates the ability of dominant platforms to “leverage their control over across multiple business lines to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition.”
- The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act promotes competition online by “lowering barriers to entry and switching costs for businesses and consumers through interoperability and data portability requirements.”
- The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act updates filing fees for “mergers for the first time in two decades to ensure that Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have the resources they need to aggressively enforce the antitrust laws.”
In their latest round of earnings reports, firms such as Twitter, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft drastically exceeded revenue forecasts as the United States economy recovered from COVID-19 and the lockdown-induced recession.
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