New law could force Apple to let iPhone users remove pre-installed apps

Apple Inc. would be prohibited under antitrust reform legislation introduced last week from giving its own apps an advantage by preventing users from removing them on Apple devices, said Democratic Representative David Cicilline, who is leading a push to pass new regulations for U.S. technology companies.

New law could force Apple to let iPhone users remove pre-installed apps

Cicilline told reporters Wednesday that a proposal prohibiting tech platforms from giving an advantage to their own products over those of competitors would mean Apple must let consumers decide which apps to use or remove.

“It would be equally easy to download the other five apps as the Apple one so they’re not using their market dominance to favor their own products and services,” the Rhode Island Democrat said.

The proposal is part of a package of bipartisan bills that would impose significant new constraints on how tech companies operate, restricting acquisitions and forcing them to exit some businesses.

The House Judiciary Committee will mark up the five bills in a hearing next week, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee’s chairman, said.

Cicilline said the self-preferencing prohibition would also apply to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime subscription service because it disadvantages some sellers who rely on the e-commerce platform.

The bill contains a provision that would prohibit Apple, for example, from restricting or impeding iPhone users from uninstalling apps that have been pre-installed, but this provision doesn’t prohibit Apple from pre-installing apps in the first place.

The bill would also prevent platforms from changing default settings that direct users to products offered by the platform, according to text of the legislation.

“You can’t make it impossible for people to use other services that are the same. You can’t exclude other people so you only are left that one,” Cicilline said.

When asked whether Microsoft Corp., which was subject to an epic antitrust case in the 1990s, would be subject to the measures, Cicilline said it would be up to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to make that determination.

The legislation sets out several criteria, including at least 50 million monthly active users in the U.S. and a market captitalisation of $600 billion.

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