New U.S. Antitrust Bill Would Require Apple and Google to Allow Third-Party App Stores and Sideloading

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New bipartisan antitrust legislation that targets Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store was today introduced by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Marsha Blackburn, and Amy Klobuchar.

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The Open App Markets Act [PDF] is meant to create “fair, clear, and enforceable rules” that will protect competition and strengthen consumer protections. According to the three senators, Apple and Google have “gatekeeper control” of the two main mobile operating systems and their app stores, allowing them to dictate the terms of the app market.

Under the terms of the bill, which applies to companies that own or control an ‌App Store‌ with more than 50,000,000 users, Apple would not be able to require developers to use its own in-app purchase system, and it would be required to allow developers to distribute apps through alternative app stores.

Apple would need to provide “readily accessible means” for iPhone users to install third-party apps or app stores outside of Apple’s own ‌App Store‌, and it would need to let customers choose third-party apps and app stores as their defaults while also hiding standard Apple apps.

Other wording in the bill would prevent Apple from retaliating against developers that decided to distribute apps using alternative means, and Apple would also not be allowed to unreasonably preference its own apps. The company would need to provide developers with access to operating system interfaces, development information, and hardware and software features.

In a statement, Blumenthal said that the legislation would break the competitive hold that Apple and Google have over the app market while providing mobile users with more control over their devices.

“This legislation will tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller startup tech companies a fighting chance. For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark–pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market. I’m proud to partner with Senators Blackburn and Klobuchar in this breakthrough blow against Big Tech bullying. This bipartisan bill will help break these tech giants’ ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices.”

Blackburn said that Apple and Google’s refusal to allow for third-party App Stores is a “direct affront to a free and fair marketplace, and Klobuchar said that the legislation levels the playing field and will ensure an “innovative and competitive marketplace.”

In an interview with Reuters, Blumenthal said that he found the “predatory abuse” of the two companies “deeply offensive on so many levels.” He said that he expects companion legislation in the House of Representatives “very soon.”

Earlier this year, U.S. lawmakers introduced sweeping antitrust legislation that would result in major changes to the tech industry if passed, with the measures coming as the culmination of a 16-month antitrust investigation.

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