Epic Games Is Reportedly Behind A North Dakota Bill Targeting App Store Fees
The North Dakota bill wants to stop Apple and Google App Stores from forcing developers to use their payment systems. If passed, the policy would only apply to companies in the state.
An Epic Games' lobbyist is one of the driving forces behind a North Dakota bill that could prevent Google and Apple from taking a cut of app store sales from developers in the state, according to the New York Times.
[Update: The Coalition of App Fairness, of which Epic is a member, has released a statement clarifying that it was not Epic alone that is behind this bill. "We want to be clear that no single member was responsible for the North Dakota bill; it is supported by CAF as a whole, which is made up of 50+ members. Several of our members submitted testimony including Epic Games, Match, Tile and Basecamp," it said. Epic's Tim Sweeney also clarified in a tweet, "Can't take credit for it, but Epic is proud to be a part of it."]
North Dakota's effort to combat app store monopolies is awesome for consumers and developers. The Coalition for App Fairness organized the outreach, lobbying, and developer participation. Can't take credit for it, but Epic is proud to be a part of it!https://t.co/Zi0iDMpkaz— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) February 16, 2021
Apple and Google both take a 30% cut of any purchases made in their respective App stores, a practice put under the spotlight recently by the high-profile dispute between Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, and Apple over mandatory App Store fees. While Epic Games and Apple are currently still engaged in a lawsuit with no foreseeable end in sight, it appears that in the meantime, the game developer has set its sights on convincing states to legislate the tech giants, instead of solely relying on the courts or Congress.
North Dakota's Senate Bill 2333 sought to allow developers use of outside payment systems, instead of being restricted to Google and Apple App Store payment systems, and to allow users downloads of apps from outside the Apple App Store. Google already allowed users to do so. However, Kyle Davison, the Republican Senator who introduced the bill, stated to the Times that he was attempting to remove the latter provision due to his colleagues' concerns.
The Times reported that Davison said he was initially given the draft legislation by Lacee Bjork Anderson, a lobbyist who told the Times that she was hired by Epic. She was also paid by the Coalition for App Fairness, a group that counts Spotify and Match Group among its members. Explaining why he introduced the bill, Davison said to the Times that he thought the bill could draw tech companies to North Dakota and thought the "lobbyist's arguments that the tech giants were hurting small businesses" was "intriguing."
Apple, of course, is extremely against such legislation. Apple's chief privacy engineer, Erik Neuenschwander, testified during the bill's hearing that the bill "threatens to destroy iPhone as you know it."
Other states are mobilizing as well. The Times reported that Georgia and Arizona legislators are considering a similar bill, and that lobbyists said they were also advocating for similar bills in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
It's unknown whether Senate Bill 2333 will make it pass the North Dakota Senate and the House, but regardless of the outcome, Apple and Google's legislation woes won't be over.
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