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Senate committee advances Open App Markets Act

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Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook

Source: Reuters. Apple

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved its second bill on tech competitions. This time it was targeted at Apple Google’sMobile app stores and the restrictions they impose on developers

The bipartisan Open App Markets Act 20-2 was approved by the committee. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), were the two no votes. The panel met last month. voted to advance the American Innovation and Choice Online ActThe aims of this initiative are similar to the previous but would have greater impact on tech companies. They will stop dominant firms from placing their products ahead of others, or discriminating against them.

These bills passed both out of committee, which shows Congress’ willingness to support legislation that targets Big Tech firms. Sponsors are encouraged by its broad support. Six Republicans opposed the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which was more comprehensive.

App stores that have more than 50,000,000 U.S. customers would be able to require developers not to use the payment system of the platform in order for them distribute their apps. Developers can also offer their apps elsewhere at different prices. They are not allowed to punish or prevent them from doing so. Developers would need to be able to contact their customers directly through the app store in order to do legitimate business.

Open App Markets Act Notably, he was able to get the support of Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who is the top antitrust member and voted against the previous legislation. Lee stated that he would continue to work with bill sponsors in order to modify it.

Sens. spearheaded the Open App Markets Act. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and MarshaBlackburn, R-Tenn. are the chairs and ranking members on subcommittee consumer protection. They want to mandate dominant app shops to make it easier to distribute apps and communicate with users.

It addresses some of the most pressing issues facing app developers, such as SpotifyBaseCamp, Epic Games, and many others raised concerns over Apple and Google’s distribution fees, prohibitions regarding the methods in which they can communicate to customers, and prohibitive pricing elsewhere.

Operators of app stores have protested the bill in its original form, saying it may compromise privacy and cause a poorer user experience.

“This bill would destroy many of the consumer benefits current payment system provide, and distort competition,” Google Vice President of Government Affairs Mark Isakowitz stated in a statement before the markup.

CNBC’s Timothy Powderly, Apple Senior Director, Government Affairs, Americas wrote that he was deeply worried about the bill. “Unless amended, the legislation would make it simpler for large social media platforms not to use the Apple App store’s pro-consumer policies, and allow them continue to do business as usual.” This mandates that Apple allows sideloading apps from app stores and other services that do not conform to the App Store’s privacy protections for consumers.

On both sides, members raised concerns about the impact of the bill on consumer privacy and security. At the start of the markup, the committee approved a manager’s amend that clarifies the security measures that app store owners can use to ensure that the bill is not broken. Some members expressed their hope that bill sponsors would keep in touch with them for further updates.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, supports the legislation. She said that bill-makers had met with cybersecurity professionals and consumer advocates who were not in agreement with tech companies about the dangers of the bill compromising user privacy.

This bill, like the American Innovation and Choice Online Act received some resistance from two Democratic senators representing California, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla. Feinstein stated that she was concerned that the bill was designed to harm companies that are based in her State. Padilla, however, expressed concern about how some language might make it more difficult for app stores that hate speech apps can be downgraded. Both voted in favor of the bill.

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WATCH: Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal discuss the Open App Markets Act

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