- US senators wrote a letter to CEO Tim Cook calling Apple’s absence at an upcoming hearing “unacceptable.”
- The hearing will discuss concerns of anticompetitive behavior surrounding Apple and Google’s app stores.
- Google, per Reuters, has agreed to testify at the April hearing.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Apple is refusing to testify at an April hearing about antitrust concerns, Reuters first reported on Friday.
The hearing will discuss Apple and Google’s app store policies and allegations of anticompetitive behavior.
Both companies take a 30% cut from in-app purchases, according to their policies. Developers have long taken issue with the practice since they claim that the 30% fee gives Apple an unfair advantage in the market, as its own apps are exempt from paying the fee.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Arizona wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, imploring that the company consider attending the hearing. A spokesperson with Klobuchar’s office shared the letter with Insider.
“A little more than two weeks before the planned hearing, Apple abruptly declared that it would not provide any witness,” the letter reads. “Apple’s sudden change in course to refuse to provide a witness to testify … is unacceptable.”
Klobuchar’s team, according to Reuters, said Google has agreed to testify at the hearing. The hearing was planned for later this month but does not yet have a date set in stone, per the outlet.
Apple and Google did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Tech’s biggest execs have become familiar with congressional hearings in the past year as scrutiny of the industry has increased and bipartisan support for regulation grows. The hearings typically include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and/or Twitter.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Twitter helmer Jack Dorsey testified at a congressional misinformation hearing in late March. The hearing was scheduled to discuss how misinformation, specifically that related to the pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, spreads on these online platforms. The hearing oftentimes devolved into political theatre, as has been typical with these sorts of proceedings.
Apple will appear in a federal trial in May to fight game giant Epic Games after their brawl kicked off last August. Epic, the owner of the popular “Fortnite” game, introduced its own payment service into the app, skirting Apple’s 30% cut from in-app purchases. In response, Apple and Google kicked Epic off its app stores, preventing customers from accessing “Fortnite.” Epic sued both companies shortly after.
You can read the letter in full below.
Dear Mr. Cook:
We write regarding Apple Inc.’s refusal to provide a witness to testify in a timely manner before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights at a hearing to examine the competition issues raised by app stores.
More than half of internet traffic comes through mobile phones, whose users rely on mobile applications to access online content and services-and the vast majority of mobile apps are downloaded from either Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. Apple’s power over the cost, distribution, and availability of mobile applications on the Apple devices used by millions of consumers raises serious competition issues that are of interest to the Subcommittee, consumers, and app developers. A full and fair examination of these issues before the Subcommittee requires Apple’s participation.
Apple has been aware for weeks that the Subcommittee was planning a hearing on this topic and was engaged in discussions with our staff regarding who would testify on Apple’s behalf. Yet a little more than two weeks [16 days] before the planned hearing, Apple abruptly declared that it would not provide any witness to testify at a hearing in April.
Earlier this year, Apple provided witnesses to testify before the North Dakota Senate and the Arizona House of Representatives to oppose state bills that would regulate the very same conduct that the Subcommittee intends to explore. You testified before the House Antitrust Subcommittee regarding these same issues last year. And on the exact day Apple informed the Subcommittee that it would not provide a witness for an April hearing, the New York Times released a podcast interview in which you discuss competition issues relating to Apple’s App Store, including Apple’s pending litigation with Epic Games.
Finally, your staff has noted ongoing litigation as the reason for not providing a witness this month. Many other representatives of companies, both inside and outside of the technology sector, have testified before Congress in similar circumstances, and your staff was aware of the ongoing litigation when they were initially working with us to provide a witness. Apple’s sudden change in course to refuse to provide a witness to testify before the Subcommittee on app store competition issues in April, when the company is clearly willing to discuss them in other public forums, is unacceptable.
We strongly urge Apple to reconsider its position and to provide a witness to testify before the Subcommittee in a timely manner.
Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.