A bipartisan bill was announced on Wednesday that can potentially reshape the business practices dominating the mobile distribution market. If passed, it will allow developers to add third-party payment systems to apps and inform users about discounts outside of stores. The bill has already been supported by Epic Games.
According to CNBC, three senators worked on the bill dubbed The Open App Markets Act: Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn..
In total, they proposed five key changes:
- prohibiting app store owners from deleting apps if in-app transactions are handled by third-party payment systems;
- allowing developers to inform users that, for example, a subscription, in-game currency or items can be bought from the game’s website at a lower price than offered by the store;
- allowing users to install alternative app stores and download apps from them. While it’s already possible on Google’s Android, this is not the case for iOS, where you cannot download apps from outside the App Store;
- prohibiting owners of large stores from using closed commercial information from third-party apps to compete with them;
- preventing app store owners from “unreasonably preferencing or ranking” to their apps or partner apps.
Senators said the bill challenges the monopoly of Apple and Google. They are convinced that the tight control these companies have over their digital stores is no more than a “pretext to maintain their monopoly position.”
“It is not only disingenuous, it’s ironic because they’re the ones who are actually invading privacy and stealing data from the developers and all the while they’re saying, ‘Oh, well, we’re the privacy protectors,’” Blumenthal said. “In fact, our legislation in Section 4 has a specific provision that protects privacy, even more than it is now. So this kind of argument is totally bogus and I think it is going to be absolutely transparent that, actually, privacy would be better protected with this legislation.”
Epic Games backed the bill and called it an “important milestone in the continued fight for fairer digital platforms.” According to the company, the introduction of such a law would help both small and large developers challenge the monopolists that abuse their market power.
While Google declined to comment, an Apple representative stated that the company has always prioritized user convenience and safety, which necessitate strict requirements for developers.