Amid Apple and Google’s legal battles with Fortnite maker Epic Games , Arizona legislators advanced new rules Wednesday that could upend that debate and change how apps work on iPhones and Android-powered devices.
The state bill, if passed and signed into law, would require app store operators like Apple and Google to loosen their rules around payment processing, an increasingly contentious topic between the tech giants and large developers who make popular apps on their respective platforms.
Instead, Arizona-based companies tallying more than one million downloads per year would be allowed to choosewhen users sign up for a subscription or buy a digital item like a new look for their character or more tries at a puzzle. Currently, Apple and Google require developers to use their payment processing services, which charge up to 30% commissions, a practice Epic Games argued is monopolistic in .
The new law, which would only apply to companies based in Arizona, still needs to pass Arizona’s state senate and be signed by Gov. Doug Ducey before it would become law.
The Coalition for App Fairness, which supported the bill, said in a statement that it would “encourage business innovation in Arizona and protect consumer choice” if passed. Representatives for Apple, Google and Epic Games didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple previously has argued that commissions help pay for further development and operation of its app stores and iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad.
Whether or not the law goes into effect, it’s the latest way states are stepping into policy and legal debates in the tech industry. Rather than wait for federal law or new regulations, starts are considering or have passed a growing set of rules around how the tech industry handles privacy, environmental issues and now finance as well.
Illinois has one of the strictest facial recognition laws in the country, contributed tolast month, with a $650 million payout from Facebook. The state of Washington in 2018 was the first in the nation , mere months after the Federal Communications Commission struck them down. Massachusetts voters in 2020 passed one of the country’s first right to repair laws, forcing car companies to . And now Arizona is considering its bill as well.
For large tech companies, this represents yet another way they face growing efforts to rein them in. After decades of operating with little oversight, tech companies are being forced to defend their actions — or lack thereof — around how they manage their social networks, control access to their devices or treat competition. And in many cases, these growing calls for tech regulation are something. Even President Joe Biden this week expressed support for .
“Companies that were once scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” the US House Judiciary Committee wrote in a a scathing, 449-page report last year. “Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price.”
It’s also a sign that regardless of legal battles tech companies are fighting amongst each other over antitrust complaints, the issues themselves won’t be going away when the lawsuits die down.
In Arizona, the bill still has hoops to pass through before it becomes law, but lawmakers made clear more regulation is likely to follow. “The status quo is failing Arizonans, forcing us to pay inflated prices. It’s failing entrepreneurs, who are being forced to jump through hoops simply to get products to their customers. In fact, the only folks who seem to benefit from this setup are the monopolies – Apple and Google,” Arizona House Reps. Regina Cobb and Leo Biasiucci wrote in a recent opinion piece published by the Arizona Capitol Times last month. “While D.C. sits on its hands, we are taking action now to challenge Big Tech’s monopoly.”