The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has this morning approved a bill that could pose a significant antitrust threat to Apple and its App Store. The development comes after Congress spent almost the last year and a half investigating antitrust concerns in big tech.
The American Choice and Innovation Online Act would make it illegal for companies to give preferential treatment to their own products over those of third-party products hosted on the same platform.
Following an investigation that began back in 2019 (Tim Cook and other tech executives were required to testify before Congress), the debate began yesterday morning and finally reached a vote in the early hours of this morning.
During the investigation, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, and other large tech firms were found to be engaging in “deeply disturbing” anticompetitive behavior.
While Congress had been expected to try and pass a single all-encompassing antitrust bill to tackle all of the issues identified. However, it opted for multiple bills, and the bill count is up to six so far.
If the act is passed into law, the changes may go so far as to see Apple being banned from pre-installing its own apps on the iPhone.
Democratic Representative David Cicilline says that “a proposal prohibiting tech platforms from giving an advantage to their own products over those of competitor would mean Apple can’t sell devices with pre-installed apps on its iOS operating platform.”
“It would be equally easy to download the other five apps as the Apple one so they’re not using their market dominance to favor their own products and services,” the Rhode Island Democrat said.
The WSJ reports that the committee approved the bill overnight, it will now go forward for a full vote in the House.
A House committee approved far-reaching legislation to curb the market dominance of tech giants, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., but much of the effort faced intensive lobbying by affected firms that slowed the committee’s work and foreshadowed a pitched battle in the Senate.
The centerpiece of the six-bill package, a measure to bar big tech companies from favoring their own products in a range of circumstances on their platforms, was approved early Thursday by a vote of 24 to 20. Known as the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, the legislation would prohibit big platforms from engaging in conduct that advantages their own products or services, or disadvantages other business users, or discriminates among similarly situated business users.
Apple and other tech firms had been lobbying hard against the legislation, as Apple CEO Tim Cook personally called U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as other members of Congress to urge them to delay considering new antitrust legislation proposals.