Apple CEO Blasts Congress for Bill to Regulate App Sales
WASHINGTON — Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook is pushing back against a move in Congress to rein in the market dominance of tech giants through antitrust legislation.
Cook said during a speech in Washington, D.C., Tuesday that the pending legislation would expose customers to malware and lead them to purchase inferior apps.
The legislation would compel Apple to sell other companies’ apps on its website without promoting its own products ahead of the competitors, also known as “sideloading.”
The same antitrust proposals would restrict Google LLC in sales of its gaming, musical and industry apps on Google Play.
Lawmakers say the market control of the tech giants shuts out any meaningful competition that could benefit consumers.
“Apple believes in competition,” Cook said in a prepared speech at the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Global Privacy Summit. “But if we are forced to let unvetted apps on the iPhone, the unintended consequences will be profound.”
Cook did not mention any specific bills in Congress but his references to the privacy of customers left little doubt he was talking about the Open App Markets Act.
Nearly identical versions of the bill are pending in the House and Senate. The European Union is considering similar legislation.
The proposed U.S. legislation applies to companies that operate app marketplaces with at least 50 million American users. In other words, it is directed primarily at Apple’s App Store and at Google Play.
Key provisions would ban requirements that app developers use the companies’ in-app payment systems. They would prohibit “self-preferencing” of apps in which marketplace operators give advantages to their own products.
Other provisions would prevent app developers from being penalized for selling their apps on other app marketplaces at lower prices and would require app market operators to allow downloads of third-party applications.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who co-sponsored the Open App Markets Act, said it would “take power away from Big Tech and give it to the free market.”
A survey by the trade group Coalition for App Fairness found that 84% of app developers who responded to the survey support the proposed legislation.
Cook lambasted it during his presentation before the IAPP.
“Data hungry companies would be able to avoid our privacy rules and once again track our users against our will,” Cook said.
“Proponents of these regulations argue that no harm would be done by simply giving people a choice,” he said. “But taking away a more secure option will leave users with less choice, not more.”
Cook was joined in his warnings by Google officials.
After the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Open Apps Act in February, Google Vice President Mark Isakowitz said the bill could “destroy many consumer benefits that current payment systems provide and distort competition by exempting gaming platforms, which amounts to Congress trying to artificially pick winners and losers in a highly competitive marketplace.”
The dispute continues to play out in federal courts as well.
In 2020, app developer Epic Games accused Apple in a lawsuit of unfair trade practices for restricting applications on its App Store from displaying alternative in-app purchasing methods.
A year later, the attorneys general from 36 states and the District of Columbia sued Google for similar allegations of anti-competitive trade through Google Play.
A U.S. District Court ruling required Apple to allow app developers to direct consumers to payment methods outside the App Store.
In December, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals paused the ruling after Apple argued it risked exposing customers to malware and invasions of privacy.
Tom can be reached at [email protected]
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