Apple CEO Tim Cook said Friday that if he refuses to voluntarily participate in an ongoing antitrust investigation, he will be subpoenaed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. David Cicilline, chairman of the U.S. House Antitrust Committee, said in an interview with Bloomberg that he expected them to voluntarily testify in the ongoing antitrust investigation after sending an official letter last week asking executives from Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook to attend.
In a letter to the committee, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised to appear before lawmakers this week, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, on the condition that other executives involved in the investigation testify. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressed interest in testifying Monday, and Apple has yet to agree to allow Cook to testify before the committee.
While Mr. Sislin believes all four executives will testify, he said the committee will issue subpoenas to obtain the information needed to make a decision. Bezos, for example, received subpoenas before Amazon signaled his willingness to participate. “We will have the documents and witnesses needed to complete the investigation,” Sislin said Friday, referring to Cook’s testimony. “I hope this is voluntary, but the Committee has always intended that if it doesn’t happen voluntarily, we will rely on mandatory procedures.” “
The House Antitrust Committee last year announced a bipartisan investigation into “platform gatekeepers” and “dominant” technology companies. Apple has come under scrutiny for its App Store business, so-called third-party apps , Sherlocking, and the systematic removal of parental control apps.
This week, Apple rejected an update to Basecamp’s new Hey email app, citing the software’s failure to include in-app purchaseoptions, and the App Store policy controversy reached its peak. Basecamp founders David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried later objected to the decision on Twitter, in interviews and through blog posts posted on Hey’s website.
Sislin, who appeared with Heinemeier Hansson in an episode of this week’s The Vergecast podcast, called Apple’s App Store toll a “highway robbery.” That view was echoed in an interview Friday. “It’s very worrying that in the use of the App Store, you know that as a developer of start-ups, you are basically forced to pay a 30 percent commission or they will be denied access to the market,” he said. “And, you know, it’s just a coincidence that Google and Apple have reached the same thing, a third of the profits. So for developers, it puts them in a position where either you pay them a commission, you go bankrupt or your app isn’t successful. This is a perfect example of the abuse of market forces to bully and claim unfair profits. “
Apple says the App Store’s guidelines are designed to foster a consistent consumer experience, not to generate excess profits. Critics, including some developers, argue that the Hey affair is Apple’s pursuit of its usual 15 to 30 percent Share of app Store deals.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of global marketing, told TechCrunch on Thursday: “I understand why there’s a problem here, but that’s not what we’re doing.” He also said that policies such as in-app purchase requirements are designed to foster customer satisfaction.
In a blog post Friday, Fried countered Apple’s argument that in-app purchase restrictions create a false barrier between app manufacturers and users and damage customer relationships.
Mr Schiller said Apple had not considered a rule change or exemption for Hey, despite the uproar. It remains to be seen whether this position will soften in the coming days. Apple is scheduled to hold its annual WWDC conference next week, which is often seen as a celebration of the tech giant’s relationship with third-party developers.