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Apple quietly bankrolled a lobbying group for app developers

Apple quietly bankrolled a lobbying group for app developers


The group received more than half of its funding from the iPhone maker

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The image displays Apple’s blue App Store logo in front of a pink and black background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

One of Washington’s loudest tech groups, The App Association (ACT), says it proudly represents thousands of app developers across the world. But according to a new report from Bloomberg on Monday, the group receives more than half of its funding from Apple.

The report paints Apple and the ACT as strange bedfellows, especially as the company’s App Store frequently finds itself at odds with the developers whose software it hosts. Over the last few years, major software developers like Epic Games and Spotify have accused Apple of running an anti-competitive online marketplace by requiring them to use the company’s in-app purchasing system while taking a stiff 15 to 30 percent cut from all sales. 

The report paints Apple and the ACT as strange bedfellows

Unlike other rival trade groups, like the Coalition for App Fairness, the ACT regularly issues statements and press releases echoing some of Apple’s own lobbying stances. On its website, ACT sings the praises of the App Store model, writing that it has “given companies never before seen access to overseas markets.” 

The group has also opposed looming antitrust legislation, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) Open App Markets Act, which would ban potentially anti-competitive behavior from companies like Apple that control how software can be distributed on its devices. In a statement last year, the ACT said Klobuchar’s bill was “another ‘ready, fire, aim’ at the mobile software distribution model simply because it seems big.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

It’s unclear if Congress could approve new antitrust regulations reining in Apple’s App Store model this year, but the threat itself has launched the company into a lobbying frenzy. According to an April CNBC report, Apple spent a record $2.5 million lobbying Congress in the first quarter of this year alone. 

Last week, a Senate source told The Verge that Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Capitol Hill to meet with Republicans and Democrats over privacy and antitrust legislation bills like Klobuchar’s App Store bill and the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO). 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that he would call a vote on the AICO this fall after progressives called for its passage earlier this summer. Schumer has yet to schedule a vote.