At a time when divisions between Republicans and Democrats can seem as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon, both sides of the aisle are increasingly in agreement on the need to hold Big Tech to account. A growing area of consensus is opening up the mobile app market to real competition and preventing app store gatekeepers from stacking the decks against rival app developers and their customers.
Progress and support for this effort can be seen in Arizona with bipartisan momentum for Bill 2200. It can also be seen in Washington with the recent passage of the Open App Markets Act by the Senate Judiciary Committee by an overwhelming vote of 20-2. . This targeted legislation has garnered support from conservatives like US Senators Marsha Blackburn, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – as well as Liberal Senators Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker and Dick Durbin.
In Arizona and Washington, both parties recognize that legislation is needed to strengthen the app economy for developers while serving consumers through increased competition and accountability. These efforts are complementary in a federal system.
Nor should legislators be fooled by scare tactics, such as those of a recent editorial on this site, which are increasingly used by gatekeepers to justify their top-down control of the app market.
For example, the authors say opening up the App Store to competition in app distribution and payment options would pose security risks for users. However, Apple already allows payment options for users on some apps and already allows direct downloads outside of the App Store on its Mac desktops and laptops. There’s no reason consumers shouldn’t have the same freedom and choice over “computers in their pockets” that they already have with computers on their desks.
Additionally, device security for iPhone and iPad is built-in through numerous security measures, including data encryption, firewall and anti-virus features, as well as a “sandbox” model that restricts device access. applications to phone resources. App Store review provides marginal, if any, additional security protections and certainly does not justify Apple’s many anti-competitive practices.
Apple uses these pretense security claims to give its own products and services an unfair advantage over competing apps by imposing roadblocks and fees that can impair user experience and increase costs for consumers and developers. Apple even uses its rules to secure critical data and technology from third-party developers, which it has used to launch competing products and services.
Arizonans would be surprised to know that developers don’t always have the ability to manage customer payments within their own app. And that developers are limited in communicating with their users, which hurts their ability to provide the best service and experience. App users should always have choices about how they pay for services, install software, and use their mobile devices.
The state’s proposed legislation also revealed the extreme lengths app store gatekeepers will go to to prevent competition in the digital marketplace. Apple, now worth nearly $3 trillion, has spent tons of money bullying and threatening state lawmakers to support app store reform plans. Apple’s ability to use its largesse to silence debate and prevent legislation from passing is bad for democracy. Likewise, its market power and top-down control of the app market is terrible for innovation, competition, and consumers.
Change will only come to the mobile app market when lawmakers, regulators and courts take bold steps to hold gatekeepers accountable and impose strong enforcement provisions to prevent anti-competitive practices, even among the biggest companies. and the richest in the world. We look forward to continuing our work to support lawmakers and policymakers at all levels of government in the United States and around the world to create a better digital marketplace for everyone.
Rick VanMeter is the Executive Director of the Coalition for App Fairness