During An Antitrust Hearing, US Senators Questioned Apple and Google About Their Dominance In The App Store.
On Wednesday, a group of US senators asked Apple and Alphabet’s Google officials about their mobile app stores’ supremacy and whether the companies misuse their influence at the detriment of smaller rivals.
Apple and Google may use their power to “exclude or suppress apps that compete with their own products” and “charge excessive fees that affect competition.” according to Amy Klobuchar, the top Senate Democrat on antitrust issues.
Music streaming services are popular among app developers. Spotify and Match Group, which owns the Tinder app, have long argued that Apple’s App Store for iPhone models and iPad users, as well as Google’s Play Store for Android devices, engage in anticompetitive behaviour by requiring mandatory revenue sharing for digital goods purchases and imposing strict inclusion rules.
Apple and Google representatives told senators that the companies’ tight control of their stores, as well as the revenue-sharing provisions that come with it, are necessary to implement and compensate for security measures that protect users from malicious apps and practices.
Apple’s Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer, however, refused to commit to spending any of the required fees on protection when questioned by Senator Josh Hawley.
Senators were also unconvinced by Andeer’s and Google’s Wilson White, senior director for government affairs, explanations for why the companies’ payments do not extend to Uber and applications that sell physical products.
“I feel like unfrozen caveman lawyer,” Senator Mike Lee said. “I’m not grasping it.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal expressed concern about a call Match obtained from its Google company counterpart late Tuesday.
Google wanted to know why Sine’s proposed testimony, which had just been posted, differed from previous statements made by the dating firm, according to Match’s Chief Legal Officer Jared Sine.
“It looks like a threat, it talks like a threat, it’s a threat,” Blumenthal said of the phone call, vowing to look into Google’s actions further.
The call, according to Google’s White, was an attempt to ask an honest query, and the company would never threaten partners.
Match’s Sine testified that Google and Apple both charge a hefty 30% fee for every digital transaction, effectively raising consumer prices.
Match pays about $500 million in-app store fees per year, according to Sine, making it the company’s single largest expense.
Apple’s app review process, according to Spotify and Match, is opaque. Apple, according to Sine, blocked a Tinder app safety update intended to alert LGBTQ+ users if they were travelling to a country where it could be unsafe to reveal their identity because the update went against the “spirit” of a new law.
Apple, on the other hand, refused to clarify how to fix the issue, according to Sine. He claims that Apple only approved the update two months later after senior executives from Match’s parent company, IAC/Interactivecorp, discussed the issue with Apple’s senior executives.
The hearing came a day after Apple announced that it would begin selling AirTag trackers, which can be attached to objects such as car keys to help users locate them when they are misplaced, in direct competition with Tile, which has been selling a similar tracking system for over a decade.
Apple said its AirTag trackers grew out of its FindMy app, which was launched in 2010, before Tile was established, and is used to locate missing Apple devices and share user locations. Apple announced last month that Chipolo, a company that competes with Tile and AirTags, is using the technology after it opened up its operating system to alternative item trackers.
Kirsten Daru, Tile’s general counsel, testified. Apple’s FindMy app is pre-installed on all iPhones and cannot be removed.
“Apple has once again used its market power and supremacy to effectively smash our user interface and guide our users to FindMy,” she said.