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US lawmakers introduce bill to rein in Apple, Google app stores

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A new Senate bill targeting US app stores seeks to rein in the power of tech giants such as Apple and Google by banning restrictions on app developers. (File photo)

A bipartisan trio of senators has introduced a bill that would seek to rein in the power of tech giants such as Apple and Google.

The bill sponsored by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar would impose sweeping new requirements on major tech platforms with its provisions applying to all app distribution services with over 50 million users.

In addition to barring big app stores from requiring app providers to use their payment system, the bill would also forbid them from punishing apps that offer different prices or conditions through another app store or payment system.

"I found this predatory abuse of Apple and Google so deeply offensive on so many levels," Blumenthal said in an interview Wednesday. "Their power has reached a point where they are impacting the whole economy in stifling and strangling innovation."

Blumenthal said he expected companion legislation in the House of Representatives "very soon."

Apple said its App Store, which anchors its $53.8 billion services business, was "an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states."

Google, in the meantime, declined to comment, however, a spokeswoman cited the statements the company had issued before that Android devices often come preloaded with two or more app stores and that app sellers can allow downloads without using Google's Play Store.

Spotify, Epic and Tile applauded the bill. Tile, which makes tags to find lost objects, filed a complaint earlier this year about Apple launching a rival product

Epic also sued Google for its app store practices. "The introduction of this bill is an important milestone in the continued fight for fairer digital platforms," said Corie Wright, Epic Games' VP of public policy.

"Its passage would enable developers to seek injunctions for violations of the Act, which will help level the playing field for small companies standing up to monopolists who are abusing their market power."

Meanwhile, Adam Kovacevich, Chamber of Progress's CEO, said, "This bill is a finger in the eye of anyone who bought an iPhone or Android because the phones and their app stores are safe, reliable, and easy to use."

"I don't see any consumers marching in Washington demanding that Congress make their smartphones dumber. And Congress has better things to do than intervene in a multi-million dollar dispute between businesses."

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