New U.S. Antitrust Bill Would Require Apple and Google to Allow Third-Party App Stores and Sideloading

New bipartisan antitrust legislation that targets Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store was today introduced by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Marsha Blackburn, and Amy Klobuchar.

app store blue banner
The Open App Markets Act [PDF] is meant to create "fair, clear, and enforceable rules" that will protect competition and strengthen consumer protections. According to the three senators, Apple and Google have "gatekeeper control" of the two main mobile operating systems and their app stores, allowing them to dictate the terms of the app market.

Under the terms of the bill, which applies to companies that own or control an ‌App Store‌ with more than 50,000,000 users, Apple would not be able to require developers to use its own in-app purchase system, and it would be required to allow developers to distribute apps through alternative app stores.

Apple would need to provide "readily accessible means" for iPhone users to install third-party apps or app stores outside of Apple's own ‌App Store‌, and it would need to let customers choose third-party apps and app stores as their defaults while also hiding standard Apple apps.

Other wording in the bill would prevent Apple from retaliating against developers that decided to distribute apps using alternative means, and Apple would also not be allowed to unreasonably preference its own apps. The company would need to provide developers with access to operating system interfaces, development information, and hardware and software features.

In a statement, Blumenthal said that the legislation would break the competitive hold that Apple and Google have over the app market while providing mobile users with more control over their devices.

"This legislation will tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller startup tech companies a fighting chance. For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark--pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market. I'm proud to partner with Senators Blackburn and Klobuchar in this breakthrough blow against Big Tech bullying. This bipartisan bill will help break these tech giants' ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices."

Blackburn said that Apple and Google's refusal to allow for third-party App Stores is a "direct affront to a free and fair marketplace, and Klobuchar said that the legislation levels the playing field and will ensure an "innovative and competitive marketplace."

In an interview with Reuters, Blumenthal said that he found the "predatory abuse" of the two companies "deeply offensive on so many levels." He said that he expects companion legislation in the House of Representatives "very soon."

Earlier this year, U.S. lawmakers introduced sweeping antitrust legislation that would result in major changes to the tech industry if passed, with the measures coming as the culmination of a 16-month antitrust investigation.

Update: In a statement to MacRumors, Apple reiterated its commitment to ensuring that apps are delivered to customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy.

"Since our founding, we’ve always put our users at the center of everything we do, and the App Store is the cornerstone of our work to connect developers and customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy. The result has been an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states. At Apple, our focus is on maintaining an App Store where people can have confidence that every app must meet our rigorous guidelines and their privacy and security is protected."

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Top Rated Comments

dominiongamma Avatar
36 months ago

Yay! Give the consumers what they deserve! It really is a win/win for everyone. It’s time developers get paid real money.
I like iOS secured and the way it is, no thank you
Score: 78 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AvisDeene Avatar
36 months ago
Will the government next force Walmart to allow Target to advertise their own products and install their own cash registers in Walmart stores?
Score: 74 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Amazing Iceman Avatar
36 months ago

This is great. If you don’t wanna install from a third party App Store or don’t wanna sideload, then just don’t do it.
Pirates rejoice!

It's not a winning situation for Apple Developers. The Torrent sites will be loaded with apps that can be installed without having to jailbreak your device.

If you let politicians control Technology, we will have total chaos.
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Amazing Iceman Avatar
36 months ago
If this is the case, then the same should apply to Game Consoles: Playstation, Nintendo, Xbox, etc...
We want to sideload to the consoles as well.
Also, I want to be able to install 3rd Party apps on my Mazda.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Amazing Iceman Avatar
36 months ago

Yay! Give the consumers what they deserve! It really is a win/win for everyone. It’s time developers get paid real money.
Developers won't get pay anything. Users will be able to side load their apps or get them from the Torrents, and install them without having to Jailbreak their devices.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zorinlynx Avatar
36 months ago

I like iOS secured and the way it is, no thank you
Then don't use third party app stores.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)