Apple Plans to Skip App Store Hearing, Drawing Ire From Senators

Apple Inc. is refusing to participate in an upcoming Senate hearing about anti-competitive practices at online app stores, according to a letter addressed to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook from Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, a Republican.

The letter says the Cupertino, California-based company declined to send a witness for an upcoming hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel to examine allegations of anticompetitive treatment of outside app developers.

Klobuchar and Lee, the panel’s chair and ranking Republican, noted that the vast majority of mobile apps are downloaded from Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s Google platforms. Google has agreed to provide a witness for the hearing, but hasn’t said who, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“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,” the letter says. “A full and fair examination of these issues before the subcommittee requires Apple’s participation.”

Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The senators said Apple initially engaged with the panel to discuss sending a witness but “abruptly” changed course 16 days before the planned hearing, citing ongoing litigation. Epic Games Inc. and Apple are going to trial in May after Epic filed an antitrust suit against Apple last year in a dispute over the 30% cut it takes from revenues on its platform. Apple later countersued, alleging that Epic breached its App Store developer contract. Epic also sued Google over the same issue.

The letter pointed to an interview Cook did for a New York Times podcast in which he discussed litigation related to Epic Games.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division has been investigating Apple’s App Store practices to determine whether the company is harming competition, Bloomberg has reported.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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