What you need to know
- Congress has introduced a new bill that threatens Apple's and Google's control over their app stores.
- The bill would affect Apple's control over in-app payments and sideloading.
A new bill seeks to remove some of the pillars of control that Apple has over the App Store.
As reported by CNBC, a new bill called The Open App Markets Act seeks to remove Apple's ability to require developers to use its in-app payment system and also allow apps to advertise special offers that may exist outside of the App Store. It would also allow apps to be sideloaded on the iPhone.
The bill targets, in part, the in-app payment systems for companies that own app stores with more than 50 million users in the U.S. Under the bill, companies like Apple and Google would not be allowed to condition distribution of an app on their app stores on whether the developers use their in-app payment system.
They also would be prohibited from keeping developers from communicating with app users about "legitimate business offers," or from punishing developers for using different pricing terms through another system. Developers have complained of being unable to advertise lower prices that customers could receive off of the apps, which would allow them to circumvent app store fees.
The bill would also allow for apps to be sideloaded, meaning they don't need to be downloaded from an official app store. Apple in particular has expressed concern that sideloading could open consumers' phones to security vulnerabilities.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of the sponsors of the new bill, said that Apple's argument around privacy as a reason for its control over the App Store is "bogus."
"It is not only disingenuous it's ironic because they're the ones who are actually invading privacy and stealing data from the developers and all the while they're saying, 'Oh, well, we're the privacy protectors' ... In fact, our legislation in Section 4 has a specific provision that protects privacy, even more than it is now. So this kind of argument is totally bogus and I think it is going to be absolutely transparent that, actually, privacy would be better protected with this legislation."
Apple released a statement in response to the announcement of the bill, saying that its control over the store is the reason that it has become a successful and trustworthy space for both developers and customers.
"Since our founding, we've always put our users at the center of everything we do, and the App Store is the cornerstone of our work to connect developers and customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy ... The result has been an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states. At Apple, our focus is on maintaining an App Store where people can have confidence that every app must meet our rigorous guidelines and their privacy and security is protected."
Apple has been under continuous pressure from Congress and developers recently over the control it yields over the App Store. The company is still in the middle of its lawsuit with Epic Games, which is suing the company and claiming that Apple holds monopolistic power because of its App Store policies.