Growing bipartisan support for the US Open App Markets Act

The Open App Markets Act (OAMA) seems to be gathering momentum.

The legislation will increase competition in app markets. Currently, Google and Apple control 99% of the global mobile OS market and take between 15-30% of revenue from developers who use their app stores. These exploitative terms of use are forced on app developers, who practically have no other channels through which they can offer their products to consumers.

For iOS users, Apple allows apps to be downloaded only through its App Store. Android users are technically free to download apps through other channels, but Google adds “friction” to the user experience. When a user downloads an app directly from the browser onto their Android device, they are confronted with various “safety” warnings and multiple hoops to jump through. Using Google’s Play Store is then the easy option. 

Google and Apple’s direct relationship with the consumer has thus allowed them to raise a tax on app developers. App store competition is needed. The CMA is also currently investigating this issue in the UK.

Bipartisan support for firm action seems to be growing. It has been boosted by the unexpected influence of Elon Musk, the arch-provocateur, whose high-profile intervention seems to have won republican hearts and minds. His recent tweet claiming Apple had threatened to take Twitter off its platform was cited in a speech by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who said if Apple were to “nuk[e] [Twitter] from the App Store, I think that would be a huge, huge mistake, and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power”. Musk’s tweet revealing the 30 percent tax has been retweeted 51.6 thousand times as of December 5th. 

On the face of it, free speech arguments may have whetted Republican appetites for strict antitrust enforcement, typically endorsed by the Democrats. Florian Muller has suggested that this free speech argument is merely an “excuse for supporting stronger antitrust enforcement in areas where they know it’s needed”. Whatever the motivation, this bridging of the “ideological gap” is very welcome.