Following on the heels of failed legislation in North Dakota and a similar bill in Arizona, Minnesota has joined the ranks of states trying to force Apple to allow apps to bypass App Store billing.
The proposal would reportedly make Apple and Google allow Minnesota developers to bypass App Store restrictions and commissions on their devices. Even if developers sell their apps directly or through other channels, the tech giants would be forced to allow them in their digital storefronts.
"A lot of people are concerned about the increased influence and power that Big Tech has, and I think there's a lot of interest in trying to make sure that we have a fair and open digital economy," said Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the bill's sponsor in the House.
The proposed legislation appears to be part of a broader and coordinated effort across U.S. states. A similar bill failed in North Dakota earlier in February, and the Arizona state House of Representatives is set to vote on another piece of legislation targeting app-store fees.
The Arizona and Minnesota bills stop short of requiring third-party app stores, focusing instead on requiring specific in-app payment systems as the sole way to accept payments. Both proposals also seek to prevent tech companies from retaliating against developers who bypass their payment systems.
An Epic Games lobbyist was reportedly behind the North Dakota bill, providing a draft to state lawmakers. The lobbyist was reportedly also being paid by the Coalition for App Fairness, a group that includes Epic, Spotify, and Basecamp.
Epic Games started its campaign against App Store fees in 2020, a premeditated effort that the company kicked off by inserting a server-side payment method in "Fortnite" that would bypass the App Store. Apple swiftly removed "Fortnite," sparking the ongoing legal battle that is now being played out across state legislatures.
Apple and Google reportedly responded to the Minnesota proposal with swift and aggressive lobbying to stop the bill. The companies have help from the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity, a group that testified against the North Dakota bill.
An Apple spokesperson said that the earlier and failed North Dakota bill could "destroy iPhone as you know it" and would carry significant consequences to users for privacy, security, safety, and performance.