Senators pressure Apple to testify in upcoming App Store antitrust hearing

Congress (Image credit: Louis Velazquez)

What you need to know

  • Apple has declined to provide testimony in an upcoming United States antitrust hearing.
  • Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee have drafted a letter to Tim Cook, asking the CEO to reconsider.

Apple has declined a request from the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to provide witness testimony at an upcoming antitrust hearing, drawing criticism from Senators.

In a letter to Tim Cook from Senator's Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, the two say that Apple's participation is required in order to evaluate the potential competition issues that Apple's control over the App Store creates.

More than half of internet traffic comes through mobile phones, whose users rely on mobile applications to access online content and services—and the vast majority of mobile apps are downloaded from either Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. Apple's power over the cost, distribution, and availability of mobile applications on the Apple devices used by millions of consumers raises serious competition issues that are of interest to the Subcommittee, consumers, and app developers. A full and fair examination of these issues before the Subcommittee requires Apple's participation.

According to the senators, Apple had been aware of the requested testimony for weeks and coordinated with government staff. However, two weeks before the hearing was set to occur, the company declined to provide any testimony. The letter points to other instances where the company has provided testimony, such as Tim Cook's recent interview with Kara Swisher.

Earlier this year, Apple provided witnesses to testify before the North Dakota Senate and the Arizona House of Representatives to oppose state bills that would regulate the very same conduct that the Subcommittee intends to explore. You testified before the House Antitrust Subcommittee regarding these same issues last year. And on the exact day Apple informed the Subcommittee that it would not provide a witness for an April hearing, the New York Times released a podcast interview in which you discuss competition issues relating to Apple's App Store, including Apple's pending litigation with Epic Games.Finally, your staff has noted ongoing litigation as the reason for not providing a witness this month. Many other representatives of companies, both inside and outside of the technology sector, have testified before Congress in similar circumstances, and your staff was aware of the ongoing litigation when they were initially working with us to provide a witness. Apple's sudden change in course to refuse to provide a witness to testify before the Subcommittee on app store competition issues in April, when the company is clearly willing to discuss them in other public forums, is unacceptable.

The letter closes with the senators saying that "we strongly urge Apple to reconsider its position and to provide a witness to testify before the Subcommittee in a timely manner."

Apple is seeing increasing pressure over its App Store control as a potential antitrust issue. Tim Cook was recently ordered to provide seven hours of testimony as part of the Epic Games lawsuit.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.