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Why I support the Open App Markets Act

Why I support the Open App Markets Act
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

This is an op-ed I did for a local paper in support of the Open App Markets Act. Sen. Klobuchar, from our home state of Minnesota, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Mobile devices are a vital part of our modern society. They track our health data, store our memories, process our payments, and connect us. Should a handful of Big Tech companies have control over something so essential? I think not. Yet, large tech companies like Apple and Google have asserted complete dominance over what we can and can’t do with our phones.

Big Tech has created an anticompetitive environment to maintain its control — through schemes such as charging developers high fees, denying alternative marketplaces, and ruthlessly copying the innovations of small companies. These anticompetitive practices stifle innovation and hinder small and medium-sized developers, like my Minnesota-based company Astropad. As a result, the choices and freedoms for consumers are limited.

One of the greatest innovations of the last three decades, the web browser, couldn’t be built today by an innovative new company because of the strict limitations imposed by app stores. But it gets worse: Apple and Google force apps to use in-app purchases, which have a hefty 30% markup. With so much of the web going through mobile devices, it effectively acts as a tax controlled by two companies.

It is time for common-sense public policy to rein in these monopolistic practices. This is why I am grateful to Sen. Amy Klobuchar for cosponsoring the Open App Markets Act, which will help restore fairness and competition in the digital economy.

The Open App Markets Act will level the playing field by regulating app stores. Developers will not be forced to use in-app payment systems, and consumers will have the freedom to choose what apps they want to use on their devices. The bill will prohibit app stores from "self-preferencing," which puts their products at an advantage over those of competitors. It will also prohibit them from using confidential business information from app developers to steal and create competing products, which my own company has suffered firsthand.

Apple used our confidential information and control over its platform to copy and compete directly with us. Thankfully, through the grit and determination of our team, we’ve been able to rebuild our business. But most small businesses aren’t so lucky. Technology cannot be dictated by only the largest companies. It’s the small companies that take the biggest risks and try the boldest innovations to push technology forward.

This legislation is an excellent step in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done. I applaud Sen. Klobuchar’s leadership in cosponsoring this bill to protect Minnesota developers and provide more choices for Minnesota consumers.

It’s time to unlock the innovation of small technology companies and stop the effective tax imposed by Google and Apple. Once new technology becomes critical for society, it becomes regulated. Electricity, railroads, and phone networks were no different. Mobile devices have reached that point, and it’s time to hold Big Tech accountable.