Sen. Amy Klobuchar plans to hold antitrust subcommittee hearings on App Store

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who was recently installed as chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, on Wednesday said she plans to investigate tech-related topics including app stores.

Klobuchar, long an opponent of dominance in Big Tech, told CNN reporter Brian Fung that she plans to hold multiple standalone hearings on tech antitrust issues like app store policies and news publishing. Hearings on agriculture, cable, and transportation are also on the docket.

The senator has yet to ask company CEOs to testify, saying those hearings lean more toward theater than fact finding, Fung reports. She has not, however, ruled the possibility out, saying, "We're looking at everything."

Apple CEO Tim Cook last year testified in front of the U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee following a probe into Big Tech. The iPhone maker was under the microscope for its App Store policies, specifically App Store fees, and allegations of "copy-acquire-kill" strategies.

As noted by Klobuchar, app stores — both Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store — will be a focus of the subcommittee in coming months.

Allegations of monopolistic practices gained traction last year when Epic Games blatantly flouted App Store policy when it updated its game Fortnite to include a method of direct in-app purchase payment. Apple pulled the title, triggering a well planned legal thrust that has morphed into a worldwide struggle over developer rights.

Along with congressional scrutiny, Apple faces pressure from individual states that seek to loosen the company's grip on its app marketplace by allowing third-party payments systems and, potentially, app stores on iOS.

Klobuchar is no stranger to the tech game and in February introduced the "Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act of 2021," which seeks to reform antitrust laws by granting more punitive power to legislators. The bill also takes action against monopsonies, possibly paving the way for stricter App Store oversight.