US Senate Chastises Apple Over ‘Abrupt’ Testimony U-Turn

Image credit: US Senate

US Senate criticises Apple for ‘abruptly’ ending negotiations to provide testimony at upcoming competition hearing with little over two weeks’ notice

US lawmakers have lambasted Apple for “abruptly” ending negotiations to testify in an upcoming antitrust hearings.

The hearings concern allegations of anti-competitive practices in app stores, the dominant stores being Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, the bipartisan heads of the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on antitrust matters, said in a letter to Apple chief Tim Cook that it was “unacceptable” for the company to refuse to testify.

The company said it had decided not to send a witness to the hearings due to “ongoing litigation”, according to the letter.

apple store the grove los angeles
Apple Store at The Grove in Los Angeles. Image credit: Apple

Legal turmoil

The firm is currently engaged in a legal battle with Epic Games over its app store practices. Epic has also sued Google over the issues.

But the senators noted that Apple chief executive Tim Cook had discussed the matter in an interview for a New York Times podcast.

“Apple’s sudden change in course to refuse to provide a witness to testify before the Subcommittee on app store competition issues in April, when the company is clearly willing to discuss them in other public forums, is unacceptable,” the letter reads.

The senators said the company was “aware for weeks” that the subcommittee was preparing a hearing on the topic and was “engaged in discussions” over who would testify on Apple’s behalf.

They said Apple then “abruptly declared that it would not provide any witness to testify at a hearing in April” with only 16 days’ notice.

‘Serious competition issues’

The senators noted that the market power represented by Apple’s app store “raises serious competition issues” and that the subcommittee’s probe “requires” Apple’s participation.

The senators said they “strongly urge” Apple to change its position and provide a witness in a “timely manner”.

Epic and others have raised issues regarding app stores’ revenue-sharing payments and strict inclusion rules.

A Senate subcommittee hearing was set for late April but no firm date has been set. Google has agreed to testify at the hearing, the senators said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple and Epic Games, which makes the popular Fortnite title, are set to face off in a federal trial beginning on 3 May in California.

A bill proposed by Senator Klobuchar in 2019 could give regulators the power to fine companies such as Apple up to 15 percent of their total US revenues for competition law violations.