It’s game over for Arizona’s controversial App Store bill

0

Arizona House Bill 2005, a hotly disputed piece of legislation that allegedly imposed developer-friendly changes to Apple and Google’s mobile app stores, is now on death row. The Bill, causing alternative payment systems on Android and iOS that bypass 30 percent store cuts mysteriously disappeared last week ahead of a scheduled vote that could have sent it directly to the governor’s office to be signed into law .

The bill had achieved a historic victory in the Arizona House of Representatives earlier this month, and the Senate was due to officially begin voting at 3 p.m. local time. HB2005 was the first bill on the agenda, but it never materialized. Now it appears that the Senate has decided at the last minute to withdraw the bill, and the sponsor tells The edge that his fate is effectively sealed for the rest of the year. Arizona will wrap up its congressional session next month with no plans to hear HB2005 again.

That’s bad news for the bill’s proponents, including a coalition of app makers and prominent Apple critics who have spoken out in recent months about the need for regulation on the distribution of mobile apps. The fight is led by the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF), an industry group made up of Apple critics and competitors such as Fortnite creator Epic Games and Spotify, who have brought the fight against alleged app store monopolies to the local stage.

The CAF has currently begun lobbying state legislators to pass bills in more than half a dozen states, with varying degrees of success. HB2005 was the most promising campaign to date, after a failure in North Dakota last month cast one of the first legitimate accounts for the app store to vote.

The primary purpose of these bills is to allow developers to bypass Apple and Google’s 30 percent app store commission, while far more lofty goals include forcing Apple to allow full alternative app marketplaces on iOS and make it illegal. for technology companies to retaliate against developers who try to circumvent app store policies. Apple has denounced such accounts, saying they threaten to “destroy the iPhone as you know it” by exposing it to security risks and undermining its revenue stream, it says to enforce App Store ratings and other benefits. , although the company has only ever publicly spoken about such legislation through testimony submitted. Without Arizona, the movement is so much weaker.

So who killed HB2005? We don’t really know, but a clearer picture is starting to emerge. At the very least, Congressmen are now willing to say publicly that lobbying Big Tech had a noticeable effect on the bill just before the vote was taken.

State Representative Regina Cobb, the bill’s sponsor and a Republican representing the state’s fifth district, claims that Apple and Google have “ hired almost every lobbyist in town ” and named six specific lobbyists who, she says, caused Senators who had previously agreed to vote are hesitant. “We thought we had the votes before we went to committee yesterday, and then we heard the votes weren’t there and they wouldn’t take the time to get it out,” Cobb said of the Senate committee’s decision for Commerce. to pull the bill.

That’s in line with what Trade Committee Chairman JD Mesnard, a Republican representing Arizona’s District 17, told The American Prospect on Friday of last week: he pulled the bill because he thought it would fail. “I questioned the committee members and there just wasn’t enough support for it,” Mesnard said in an interview with the Perspective“Some members were in conflict about it, others were just against it. There was some support for it, but it certainly fell short. “

Cobb says she thinks nothing illegal or outrageous has happened, but is just lobbying as usual – unlike outspoken Apple critic and Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, who publicly accused powerful companies of negotiating illegal deals, colluding with the Democrats of the Chamber (some of whom are against the bill) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

“The big show turned out to be a no-show,” Hansson wrote on Twitter on Thursday from last week. The bill was killed in the air while on the agenda with a deal in the back room. Apple has hired the former governor’s chief of staff, and he’s reportedly struck a deal to prevent this from even being heard. ” Although The edge has heard a similar claim from multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, no one, except Hansson, felt comfortable making an explanation on the record.

The apparent death of HB2005 and the confusion and mystery surrounding it underscore the immense power of tech titans like Apple and Google as well as the difficult legislative path for similar bills in Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other states in the country. The clear takeaway is that although these bills are the result of successful lobbying efforts by the CAF and its partners, the Silicon Valley lobby that has emerged to refute these bills has proved just as clever.

‘There is a legitimate problem here. It is undeniable [Apple and Google] have gatekeeper power and rule the app stores, and you just have nowhere else to go. You have to go through one of these companies to get your app before the consumer, ”said Pat Garofalo, the director of state and local policy at the nonprofit American Economic Liberties Project, which has expressed support for the bills. “It makes perfect sense that there are many forces on both sides, be they small, medium or large.”

Cobb admits that she took the case after being approached by the CAF and that having other major tech companies as opposition did not help as it put a lot of pressure on the upcoming vote and left some congressmen on both sides in doubt and confusion about the bill.

“I realized if you go up against Apple and Google like this, you’re going to be hit pretty hard,” said Cobb. She said she had multiple meetings with Apple, including Apple veteran Tim Powderly, the company’s director of federal government affairs. She says the talks were cordial, but Apple was very much looking for a compromise.

Apple declined to comment on this story. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Regardless of why the bill was repealed, the result is the same: Arizona HB2005 won’t change the way Apple and Google operate their mobile app stores because the chance of ever becoming a law is nil. “Unless it’s brought up as a striker, it should be reintroduced next year,” said Cobb The edge in a follow-up email on Monday.

An attacker, formally known as an “everything amendment,” is a controversial legislative move that aims to replace the full text of a bill in an attempt to reopen and advance the debate without adhering to standard deadlines. Cobb said such a move is unlikely at this point because strikers “often get negative publicity and they are not always successful,” she said.

While Cobb says she hasn’t been intimidated by Apple or Google, she says The edge she probably won’t insist unless she thinks she will succeed. “I’m trying to decide how much political capital I want to put into this.” Failing that, the Arizona Congress will reconvene in January, but the state’s attempt to regulate Apple and Google’s app stores is effectively over for now.

The CAF says it will continue the fight, even though it has now seen two legislative defeats in its app store lobbying activities, the first a more aggressive bill that failed to get enough votes in the North Dakota House last month. “The parliamentary term is not over yet. We will continue to push for solutions that increase choice, support app developers and small businesses, and end monopolistic practices, ”said Meghan DiMuzio, CAF’s executive director, in a statement to The edge last week.

Garofalo of the American Economic Liberties Project thinks it is likely that one of these state laws will ever pass, especially if there is no meaningful federal regulation or antitrust enforcement.

“This idea is there, now this is a bit in the spirit of the times,” he said. “I really think a state will do this, and there are really good reasons for a state to do it.” All it takes, he adds, is a group of lawmakers who “hear the right arguments, get the benefits and decide to do it.” At that point, the main thing getting in the way is the lobbying efforts of tech companies that would benefit from these bills failing.