Congressmen Johnson, Buck Introduce Bipartisan Plan to Rein in App Store Monopolies

August 13, 2021
Press Release
Reps. Johnson of Georgia and Buck of Colorado Offer Legislation to Protect Consumers, Level Playing Field for App Developers, Offer Rules for the Road for App Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet and Congressman Ken Buck (CO-04), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, today introduced the Open App Markets Act, which would level the playing field for small app developers, strengthen consumer choice within the app marketplace, and ensure that antitrust laws are working properly in the digital ecosystem.

The Open App Markets Act is the House companion to a Senate bill that was introduced this week by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“It is imperative that the antitrust laws work properly in the multi-billion-dollar digital marketplace,” said Rep. Johnson. “For too long, Google and Apple in particular have enjoyed a near monopolistic grip on the mobile app market stifling competition and strangling consumer choice. I’m pleased to be working with Congressman Buck to hold Big Tech accountable, level the playing field for small businesses and app developers and increase competition and innovation in the digital ecosystem all while offer consumers more choice.”

“For far too long companies like Google and Apple have had a stranglehold on app developers who are forced to take whatever terms these monopolists set in order to reach their customers,” said Rep. Buck. “I am proud to co-lead the Open App Markets Act because it will restore a competition to the digital marketplace, rein in anticompetitive behavior, and will ensure consumers are getting access to the apps they actually want and are paying a fair price to get them.”

The mobile economy is also one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In 2020 alone, U.S. consumers spent nearly $33 billion in mobile app stores, downloading 13.4 billion apps. But today, just two companies control access more than 95% of this market — undermining the choice and economic opportunity of countless small businesses and app developers. As a result, there is mounting evidence of higher prices, less innovation, and fewer choices for consumers in the digital marketplace.

The Open App Markets Act would protect developers’ rights to tell consumers about lower prices and offer competitive pricing; protect sideloading of apps; open up competitive avenues for startup apps, third party app stores, and payment services; make it possible for developers to offer new experiences that take advantage of consumer device features; give consumers more control over their devices; prevent app stores from disadvantaging developers; and set safeguards to continue to protect privacy, security, and safety of consumers.

Johnson has championed consumer rights in the app marketplace throughout his time in Congress. He has introduced the Application Privacy, Protection and Security (APPS) Act, a bill to increase consumer privacy on mobile devices; and the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act, which would prohibit data brokers from using consumer data deceptively, empowering consumers to access and correct information, and opt-out of data use for marketing purposes.

Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, is an original cosponsor.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer

“Spotify commends Representatives Johnson, Buck, and Cicilline for their bipartisan, steadfast commitment to protecting consumers, developers, and the digital economy.  Apple has used the iOS platform and its App Store policies to insulate itself from competition and disadvantage rivals for far too long.  By introducing the Open App Markets Act in both chambers of Congress, we’re one important step closer to curbing Apple’s anticompetitive behavior, leveling the playing field, and restoring competition for all.”

Rep. Johnson's statement on US Court ruling in Epic Games v. Apple  

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