The bill aims to set 'fair, clear, and enforceable' rules to protect competition within the app market
Three US senators introduced a bill to promote competition in the app store space, which Apple and Google currently dominate.
The Open App Markets Act, sponsored by Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, aims to set 'fair, clear, and enforceable' rules to protect competition within the app market, and to strengthen customer protection.
If successful, the Act will bar large app stores (with 50 million+ US users) from requiring developers to use their own payment system. It will also prevent them from punishing developers that offer different conditions or prices through alternative app stores.
The bill also aims to keep app stores from disadvantaging certain developers, and allow for the growth of third-party app stores.
The Senators said Google and Apple enjoy 'gatekeeper control' of the two main mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, as well as their app stores, which restricts consumer choices.
Blumenthal expects that the new legislation will "tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy," and will give consumers more choices.
It would also give smaller tech firms a "fighting chance," he said.
"I'm proud to partner with Senators Blackburn and Klobuchar in this breakthrough blow against Big Tech bullying," Blumenthal added.
Klobuchar said competition was vital for protecting smaller firms and consumers, spurring innovation, and promoting economic equity.
"By establishing new rules for app stores, this legislation levels the playing field and is an important step forward in ensuring an innovative and competitive app marketplace," she added.
The new bill has been introduced to the US Senate about a month after a bipartisan coalition of US state attorney generals filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. They accused the company of abusing its control of the Android app store to thwart competition and force consumers into in-app payments.
The lawsuit alleged that Google was unlawfully forcing app developers to go through the Google Play Store to reach users, and to pay an 'extravagant' 30 per cent commission on app purchases.
The legal challenge also accused Google of using 'misleading' security warnings to keep developers and consumers in the Play Store.
It's not only Google at risk: the stakes are also high for Apple, which earns billions of dollars through its App Store every year. Apple's App Store is the only place iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch users can download apps.
In June, Apple published a 16-page report that defended its tightly policed App Store, and explained why allowing iOS users to install third-party apps would be a huge security risk for users.
The company argued that allowing users to sideload (download apps from outside the App Store) would simply open the doors for scammers and malware.
Commenting on the new bill, Apple told Reuters that its app store was 'an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states'.
But the USA is not the only country where the tech giants face criticism over their app store policies.
In March, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it was investigating Apple over complaints that the company's terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anti-competitive.
The company is also facing a probe by the Dutch competition authorities, who are nearing a draft decision.
The European Commission has four ongoing antitrust investigations into Apple, three of which involve the App Store.