U.S. senators question Apple and Google on the dominance of mobile app stores

A panel of US senators questioned officials from Apple Inc and Google Alphabet Inc on Wednesday about the dominance of their mobile app stores and whether the companies are abusing their power at the expense of smaller competitors.

Amy Klobuchar, the Senate’s top Democrat on anti-coalition issues, said Apple and Google can use their power to “exclude or block apps competing with their own products” and “charge excessive fees that affect competition.”

App makers such as music streaming service Spotify Technology SA and dating services company Match Group, which owns the Tinder app, have long complained that mandatory revenue sharing for digital goods sales and strict inclusion rules set by Apple’s App Store on for iPhones and iPads, along with Google’s Play Store for Android devices, is synonymous with anti-social behavior.

Apple and Google representatives told parliamentarians that companies need tight control over their stores and associated revenue-sharing requirements to enforce and pay for security measures to protect consumers from harmful apps and practices.

But when asked by Senator Josh Hawley, Apple’s Chief Compliance Officer, Kyle Andeer, would not commit to spending all mandatory security fees.

Explanations by Andeer and Wilson White of Google, senior director of government affairs, as to why the companies’ fees do not apply to Uber Technologies Inc and apps selling physical goods also failed to satisfy parliamentarians.

“I feel like a caveman lawyer not frozen,” said Senator Mike Lee. “I’m not grasping it.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal expressed concern over a call Match said he received late Tuesday from his business partner at Google.

Match’s Chief Legal Officer, Jared Sine, said Google wanted to know why Sine’s newly-planned evidence released a departure from previous comments made by the dating company.

“It looks like a threat, it speaks like a threat, it’s a threat,” Blumenthal said of the call, promising to further investigate Google’s action.

In its evidence, Match’s Sine argued that Google and Apple are both just 30% onerous of any digital transaction, raising prices for consumers.

Match pays the app stores nearly $ 500 million in fees annually, the company’s largest single cost, Sine said.

Spotify and Match said Apple’s app review process was opaque. Sine said Apple blocked a security update to the Tinder app to warn LGBTQ + users if they were traveling to a country where it might be dangerous to reveal their identity because Apple said the update violated the “spirit” of a new rule.

But Apple would not explain how to resolve the issue, Sine said. He said Apple approved the update two months later only after senior leaders at Match’s then parent company, IAC / Interactivecorp, raised the issue with senior Apple leaders.

The hearing came a day after Apple said it would start selling AirTags – which can be linked to items such as car keys to help consumers find them when they are missing – in direct competition with Tile, which has sold a tracking device probably for more than a decade.

Apple said its AirTags came with its “FindMy” app, used to locate lost Apple devices and share user locations and introduced in 2010, before Tile was established. Last month, Apple opened its operating system up to alternative item trackers and said Chipolo, a startup company that competes with Tile and AirTags, is using the system.

Tiles General Counsel Kirsten Daru testified that Apple’s FindMy program is installed by default on Apple phones and cannot be deleted.

“Once again, Apple has taken advantage of its power and market dominance to effectively condition our customers’ access to data on cutting our user experience and referring our users to FindMy,” he said.

This story was published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the heading has been changed.

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