As part of Congress’ far-reaching probe into antitrust behavior involving Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google, the House Judiciary Committee today sent a letter to Tim Cook asking to see a wide range of internal documents pertaining to their investigation.
The request is incredibly broad and specifically asks for communications involving Apple’s top brass, a list which includes Cook, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, Johny Srouji, Jony Ive, Craig Federighi, and others.
As to the type of documents the House Judiciary Committee wants Apple to hand over, they want to see all emails pertaining to the following issues:
- Apple’s decision to remove from the App Store or to impose any restrictions on certain screen-time and parental-control apps..
- The App Store algorithm that determines the search ranking of apps in the App Store
- Apple’s policy regarding whether and under what circumstances any specific app or any categories of apps in the App Store are permitted to use payment systems other than Apple’s payment system
- Apple’s policy regarding whether apps are permitted to include in-app links to non-Apple payment systems
- Apple’s revenue share policy for in-app purchases
- Apple’s policy regarding whether iPhone users can choose non-Apple apps as default apps, including but not limited to, defaults for web browsers, maps, e-mail client, maps services, or music players
- Apple’s policy regarding whether to allow on the iPhone any app stores other than the Apple App Store.
Other documents they want Apple to hand over center on Apple’s iPhone battery replacement program, Apple’s decision to introduce its Independent Repair Provider Program, and its stance on third-party repairs.
The documents could shed light on whether the companies’ dominance of search, advertising, e-commerce and other digital markets is rooted in anti-competitive practices, such as gobbling up or squashing rivals, and the extent to which their leaders participated in, or had been personally aware of, any wrongdoing. The lawmakers’ letters are not official legal demands, though the panel does have key powers to compel the four tech giants to turn over records or appear at hearings if necessary.
In a statement on the matter, Representative Jerry Nadler said that “there is growing evidence that a handful of corporations have come to capture an outsized share of online commerce and communications.”
Of course, simply capturing an “outsized” share of commerce and communications doesn’t equate to antitrust behavior. Indeed, the documents sought by lawmakers will be examined to see if Apple and the other three tech giants have been abusing their dominance to stifle innovation and keep competition at bay.
“This information is key in helping determine whether anti-competitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets,” Georgia Representative Doug Collins said.