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  • Apple Accused of ‘Power Grab’ in Senate App Store Hearing

    Apple Accused of ‘Power Grab’ in Senate App Store Hearing

    (Bloomberg) -- Music-streaming service Spotify Technology SA and Match Group Inc., which operates online dating apps, accused Apple Inc. of squeezing software developers that depend on its App Store to reach customers by extracting monopoly profits and squashing competition.Executives from the two companies, along with Tile Inc., which makes a tracking device for consumers, urged lawmakers at a Senate hearing Wednesday to tackle the dominance of Apple and Google over the digital marketplaces where users download apps.Although Apple and Google hold a duopoly in the Western world’s app store ecosystem, much of the ire was directed at Apple, which charges big developers 30% of revenue, a cut that witnesses at the hearing said amounts to a “tax.”“Apple abuses its dominant position as a gatekeeper of the App Store to insulate itself from competition and disadvantage rival services like Spotify,” Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s chief legal officer, told lawmakers. The streaming service competes with Apple Music. Apple’s restrictions on developers, he added, “are nothing more than an abusive power grab and a confiscation of the value created by others.”App developers have complained for years that Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s Google force them to give up too big a portion of revenue collected from app sales. They also complain that rules governing app stores are overly strict and inconsistent. Gutierrez, for example, complained about what he called Apple’s “gag order,” a rule that prevents Spotify from telling app users they can sign up for Spotify at lower prices elsewhere. Executives also accused Apple of copying products from other developers and retaliating against partners that speak out against its practices.The hearing, before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, is part of Congress’s expanding scrutiny of the power of technology companies. Democrats, and some Republicans, are pushing for changes to antitrust laws that would make it easier for competition watchdogs to bring cases against companies that they say are buying up -- and crowding out -- rivals.Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who chairs the antitrust panel, said Apple and Google are gatekeepers that have the power to decide how or whether apps can reach iPhone and Android users, even as they compete against apps with their own services.“Capitalism is about competition,” she said. “It’s about new products coming on. It’s about new competitors emerging. This situation, to me, doesn’t seem like that’s happening when you have two companies really each dominating in different areas.”Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would make it easier to prevent and punish anticompetitive behavior, and she said Wednesday’s testimony “strengthened the case for sweeping antitrust reform so companies big and small don’t have to live or die by the whims of monopolies.”“If these actions aren’t proof of serious competition problems, I don’t know what is,” Klobuchar said.Kyle Andeer, Apple’s chief compliance officer, and Wilson White, a senior director of public policy and government relations at Google, defended their companies’ practices.Andeer told senators that the App Store revolutionized software distribution by making it possible for developers to reach users in a new way. He said the commissions are lower than what was charged for software distribution when Apple introduced the App Store more than a decade ago, and that its tight controls over which apps are allowed are aimed at meeting privacy, safety and performance standards.Until now, congressional scrutiny has focused more on Google than Apple, and Google is already facing antitrust complaints on several fronts. A Justice Department lawsuit filed last year accuses Google of illegally maintaining a monopoly in web search. Texas and other states have sued over the Mountain View, California-based company’s digital advertising practices.But antitrust complaints against Cupertino, California-based Apple are piling up. They focus largely on the company’s App Store practices, which are now under investigation by the Justice Department, Bloomberg News has reported.Apple drew much of the criticism from lawmakers during Wednesday’s hearing. Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri accused the iPhone maker of cutting special deals with large companies like Inc. to keep them out of the market “while putting the squeeze and the lid on small competitors, all in service of keeping this gravy train of monopoly rents flowing.”Kirsten Daru, Tile’s general counsel, said Apple has exploited its power to harm Tile and give Apple’s competing product -- AirTags -- a leg up. Apple has refused to give Tile access to a chip in iPhones that would improve Tile users’ experience, even though AirTags have that access, she said.“If Apple turned on us, it can turn on everyone,” Daru added. “If Apple chooses to compete against developers on its platform, it should just do so fairly, and according to the same rules. Regulating a giant like Apple won’t be easy, but it’s just going to get harder as it gets bigger and more powerful.”Jared Sine, Match’s chief legal officer, told senators that a few years ago, the company wanted to make changes to its app in Taiwan aimed at boosting safety for users by instituting ID verification rules. Apple rejected the app, and when Sine contacted an executive at Apple about the decision, the person “disagreed with our assessment of how to run our business and keep our users safe.”“He added that we just should be glad that Apple is not taking all of Match’s revenue, telling me: ‘You owe us every dime you’ve made,’” Sine said.When Klobuchar asked if Match faced retaliation for testifying at the hearing, he said a Google employee reached out to the company last night to ask why Match’s testimony differed from previous statements it had made.“They could hurt us in little ways, they could hurt us in big ways,” Sine said about the app store. “We’re all afraid, is the reality, Senator.”(Updates with Klobuchar quote, beginning in the ninth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Senate to Call Spotify, Match at Apple, Google Antitrust Hearing

    Senate to Call Spotify, Match at Apple, Google Antitrust Hearing

    (Bloomberg) -- Google will send a top policy executive to testify at Wednesday’s Senate app store antitrust hearing, while legal executives from Spotify Technology SA, Tile and Match Group Inc. will serve as witnesses, according to people with knowledge of the matter.Google Senior Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy Wilson White will be the search giant’s representative, joining Apple Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer in the spotlight. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, which is holding the hearing, also plans to call Horacio Gutierrez, Kirsten Daru, and Jared Sine, top legal executives from Spotify, Tile and Match Group, respectively.Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, will also be called. Spotify, Tile and Match have all been embroiled in antitrust fights with Apple recently, with Spotify and Match filing complaints about Apple’s App Store rules and fees. Tile believes Apple’s Find My app will give the company’s rumored AirTags accessory for finding physical objects a leg up over third-party rivals.Read more: Apple Makes Top Executive Available at Senate App Store HearingThe Senate subcommittee is investigating Apple and Google over competition issues and concerns from app developers. Apple’s Andeer previously testified on several matters for Apple before the House of Representatives and other U.S. lawmakers.White, a top deputy of Google legal chief Kent Walker, joined the company in 2011 after working as a software developer and patent lawyer. Since 2013, he has worked as a policy director on Google’s ads and apps divisions, units that were critical to Google’s business success with mobile phones. They’re also units that have been at the center of some of Google’s political troubles.On the app store issue, Google often argues that it differs from Apple since Android device owners are free to download alternative app stores, like those from Samsung and wireless carriers. But Google does require device manufacturers to install its app store and other mobile services, giving its properties a competitive advantage. That arrangement was the centerpiece of a European Union antitrust case against Google. The company disputed the EU charges.The subcommittee is run by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Senator Mike Lee is the panel’s top Republican. The two lawmakers said Apple initially declined to participate, and they sent a letter to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to demand that the company send a witness.“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 said. “A full and fair examination of these issues before the subcommittee requires Apple’s participation.”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. Apple is embroiled in an antitrust lawsuit with Epic Games Inc., which goes to trial in early May. Earlier on Monday, Apple said it would allow the Parler social network app to return to the App Store, potentially easing some of the expected questioning on Wednesday.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Get set for a post-Covid relationship boom, says Hinge boss
    The Telegraph

    Get set for a post-Covid relationship boom, says Hinge boss

    "I think this fall will be a cuffing season for the ages," says Justin McLeod, the 37-year-old chief executive of Hinge. He is referring to a modern romantic ritual in which single people couple up through the winter and decide in spring whether to stay. It is just one face of the "relationship renaissance" that his company forecasts in 2021. "Some people are saying this is going to be the summer of hedonism," McLeod continues. "Actually, what we're seeing from our data is that people are thinking more intensely about who they want to be and who they want to be with, wanting real intimacy and partnership. They're thinking, 'well, we don't live forever' – so they want to find that person, sooner rather than later." Perhaps, he suggests, this relationship boom will in time become a baby boom, reversing the plummeting birth rates that have accompanied the pandemic in both the US and UK.