An investigative report published Tuesday illustrates the full measure of lobbying force Apple assembled in attempts to thwart U.S. legislation that would police App Store policy.
According to documents reviewed by the Tech Transparency Project, an offshoot of watchdog group Campaign for Accountability, Apple applied “aggressive” lobbying tactics to sway opinion in Arizona, Georgia, North Dakota and other states where proposed legislation threatened existing App Store policy.
Although bills may differ from one state to the next, many lawmakers are critical of Apple’s handling the App Store. They want to lift restrictions on third-party payment systems and increase scrutiny of the marketplace’s commission structure.
Although the current document is a summary of past coverage, a lot of it based upon past TTP/CfA investigations, there are some new revelations that were not reported. Email correspondence between lobbyists, legislators and outside lawyers is also included.
One interesting fact is about Arizona bills. In February, SB1642 & HB2005 were introduced. They sought to give developers access to third party in-app payment systems. This was a change Apple has vociferously opposed alongside Google.
TTP reports that Stuart Goodman, an Apple lobbyist, teamed up with right-wing organizations to press Republicans about the matter. Goodman sent letters to the Arizona House Commerce Committee from Michael Bowman (president of the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC), as well as Grover Norquist (head of Americans for Tax Reform), warning that the legislation could be seen as government overreach and would cause harm to consumers.
In February, North Dakota lawmakers rejected an identical bill (drafted in part by Epic Games lobbyists). The ALEC letter was first sent to them. A Florida state representative was also addressed the letter by an Apple lobbyist, despite the fact that there is no App Store legislation on the ballot in Florida.
ALEC is known for provoking controversy by trying to ban “sanctuary city,” strengthen gun rights, and promote climate change denialism. This strange relationship has been a problem for Apple over the past decade, which has pushed for immigration reform and large-scale environmental initiatives.
Arizona declined to vote on the contentious HB2005 amendment in March, effectively putting it on ice after intense lobbying.
Georgia’s Apple lobbyist Tyler Stephens, from the Republican firm Fierce Government Relations, wrote a letter to Christopher Carr, the attorney general of the state, in which he raised concerns about the constitutionality and legality of two House and Senate bills that would have forced Apple to allow third party app stores on iOS. The legislation also targeted first-party payment systems.
Reports last month, based on TTP findings, said Apple lobbyists threatened to pull out of a $25 million investment in a historically Black college and a “potentially multibillion-dollar partnership with Kia to build autonomous vehicles” in Georgia.
The bills were defeated despite targeted lobbying and “surprisingly solicitous” actions by the staff of the state AG.
Apple’s App Store practices are under intense scrutiny. The company is facing a number of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries worldwide, as well as state-level proposals. In August, the Senate and House introduced measures to limit app store dominance.
Apple is slowly changing the App Store policy, even though it is still fighting a war on multiple fronts. Apple and a group developers reached an agreement last month in a class-action lawsuit against App Store commissions and fees. The agreement would create a fund of $100 million for small developers, and allow app makers to contact customers regarding alternative payment methods.
More recently, Apple last week announced plans to allow “reader” apps to link out to the web for account management purposes. This change will be effective worldwide and was made in response to an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission into App Store policies.