Apple defends App Store guidelines at antitrust hearing

Kyle Chua
Apple defends App Store guidelines at antitrust hearing

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

Cook argues that Apple's 30% cut on transactions on the App Store is a fair price to pay to be on the distribution platform

“If Apple is a gatekeeper, what we’ve done is open the gate wider,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told lawmakers. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook was among the 4 executives from Big Tech that were summoned by the US Congress for an antitrust hearing on Wednesday, May 29. 

For much of the hearing, US lawmakers focused their attention on Apple’s App Store guidelines and how it determines what apps are put or removed from the platform. 

Representatives Val Demings and Lucy Kay McBath questioned the removal of a number of apps that conflicted with the firm’s own Screen Time software, citing a 2019 report from The New York Times

Screen Time is a feature of iOS and iPadOS that lets users monitor their own or their children’s device usage, showing how much time is spent on different apps. It was launched in 2018 as part of major updates to Apple’s operating systems. 

Cook responded that Apple removed the apps over safety concerns rather than competition. The apps in question were said to be abusing a mobile tool that gives developers access to private information such as location and browsing history. 

“We were concerned over the privacy and security of kids,” said Cook. “There’s vibrant competition for parental controls out there.” 

He added that there are over 30 apps similar to the Screen Time on the App Store today.

In his prepared statement before the hearing, Cook also defended Apple’s 30% cut on digital transactions on the App Store. He argues that commission is a fair price to pay to be on its digital distribution platform.  

“Brick-and-mortar stores charged high fees and limited reach. Physical media like CDs had to be shipped and were hard to update,” he said. 

“From the beginning, the App Store was a revolutionary alternative. App Store developers set prices for their apps and never pay for ‘shelf space’.”

Cook said the App Store began with 500 apps when it launched in 2008, but now has 1.7 million apps. 

“Clearly, if Apple is a gatekeeper, what we have done is open the gate wider. We want to get every app we can on the store, not keep them off,” he said. –