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North Dakota Senate debates breaking Apple's App Store monopoly

Apple's App Store and Google Play

A new bill being debated in North Dakota could see Apple forced to allow sideloading of apps, and not require developers to use the App Store in-app purchasing mechanism.

North Dakota's Senate legislature has been discussing a proposed bill that would shake up Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store by removing their alleged monopolies. What is proposed in Senate Bill No. 2333, is specifically to do with developers being forced to sell through App Stores.

The bill does not mention Apple or Google by name. Instead, it seeks to be applied to any "digital application distribution platform" for general computing, like an iPhone, which earns over $10 million annually from sales in North Dakota. There are carve-outs for "special-purpose digial application distribution platforms" like a game console or dedicated music player, which exclude stores for devices like the various Xbox or PlayStation consoles from the provisions of the bill.

The bill mandates that general purpose platforms can not require a developer to use their app store. Furthermore, platforms also may not "require a developer to use an in-application payment system as the exclusive mode of accepting payment."

Finally, they may not "retaliate against a developer for choosing to use an alternative application store or in-application payment system."

According to The Bismark Tribune, the bill was introduced by Senator Kyle Davison (R-Fargo), who claimed that App Store fees were unfair.

"The purpose of the bill is to level the playing field for app developers in North Dakota and protect customers from devastating, monopolistic fees imposed by big tech companies," he said. "[This penalizes smaller developers] by raising prices and limiting choices for consumers."

During the hearing, Apple's chief privacy engineer Erik Neuenschwander said that passing the bill would threaten "to destroy iPhone as you know it." He said that these proposed changes would "undermine the privacy, security, safety, and performance that's built into iPhone by design."

"Simply put, we work hard to keep bad apps out of the App Store; [this bill] could require us to let them in," he continued.

North Dakota has an app of its own on Apple's App Store, the contact tracing coronavirus Care19. It has been criticised, however, for contradicting its own privacy policy and sharing information with other companies.

Based on the committee votes so far, it does not appear that the bill will pass in its present form.