SAN FRANCISCO, CA.: An ongoing dispute between Apple and the developer of an app platform for restaurants has spilled over into Washington following changes to the App Store, which critics argue will discriminate against small businesses.
Apple’s decision to change the rules for Apps allowed onto its store was intended to crack down on spammers and fraudsters, who have turned to off-the peg app templates for convenience.
However, the changes, which will ban template apps from January, have been disputed by the fill-in-the-blank restaurant ordering app platform ChowNow.
Recode reported that the company increased its political lobbying effort earlier this year with a view to drawing political attention to what it argues are discriminatory measures. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) has now taken up the fight.
“It is my understanding that many small businesses, research organizations and religious institutions rely on template apps when they do not possess the resources to develop apps in-house,” Lieu wrote in a letter obtained by Recode.
In further comments obtained by the Financial Times, Lieu expressed his concern that “in weeding out several bad actors – Apple may be casting too wide of a net and invalidating apps from longstanding and legitimate developers who pose no threat” to the store’s integrity.
Though Apple was a vocal supporter of net neutrality legislation that maintains an open internet, ChowNow CEO Christopher Webb argued that Tim Cook’s company was not running its store in a similarly “neutral” way.
The changes have significant implications for business at large, not least brands and agencies that wish to provide elegant online experiences but for whom the cost and time to develop an app from scratch would prove prohibitive.
Mobile commerce accounted for just over a fifth (20.8%) of all digital commerce in the US in 2016, according to data from comScore; changes that affect businesses' ability to access this revenue stream could be incredibly harmful.
Such opposition, and the fact that ChowNow resorted so quickly to a political process illustrates the power that platforms such as the App Store now wield, and the kind of pressure that needs to be leveraged in order to force change from the company.
The dispute follows reports in August that 28 China-based developers had filed a complaint against Apple alleging that it breached the country’s antitrust legislation.
Sourced from Recode, Financial Times, WARC, Reuters; additional content by WARC staff