Lofty big tech bill fails in ND Senate, but could make its way to other states

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 4:51 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The state legislature has received national attention regarding a bill that would have allowed businesses and software developers to sidestep fees from Apple and Google.

North Dakota led the charge on this issue, as the first bill at the state level to tackle the Apple and Google app stores. Ultimately the bill failed in the Senate 36-11, but supporters said the fight could easily continue in the future.

Every app installed on your phone is done so through either Apple or Google, but businesses who want their own apps say it’s costing them.

“We have countless businesses that we do work with that either can’t build an app because they can’t get their app passed through the app store or they just can’t afford to do it,” said Onsharp President and CEO Joe Sandin.

The Fargo based business owner said the problem lies with businesses needing to pay up to a 30% tax to Apple or Google plus extra credit card processing fees for their apps.

While this hinders small businesses, some larger businesses are exempt from these requirements.

“We just want this to be the same for the small guys and there’s no reason it can’t be. They allow third party payment systems already on their platforms. They can do it for the smaller apps that need it more,” said Coalition for App Freedom lobbyist Lacee Bjork-Anderson. The path itself for getting an app into the app store is a rocky one.

Apple reviews about 100,000 app submissions every week and rejects 40% of those.

An Apple employee remotely testified in front of the North Dakota’s Senate Industry, Business, and Labor Committee against the bill. “We’re striving constantly to improve the privacy, security, safety, and performance of your phone. And I’m here, as a software engineer, to tell you in no uncertain terms that Senate Bill 2333 threatens to destroy iPhone as you know it,” said Apple’s Chief Privacy Engineer Eric Neuenschwander.

Some saw Apple’s testimony as fear mongering. “Those are scare tactics to maintain a monopoly,” said Tile’s Chief Privacy Officer and General Counsel Kirsten Daru.

Most lawmakers decided to side with the Big Tech companies.

“We don’t want to put the state in a position where we need to spend our taxpayer dollars in litigation. Because these are some very big companies,” said Sen. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden.

An amendment limited the bill to payment processing changes only, but it wasn’t enough to pass the legislation.

North Dakota is an unlikely state for this bill to surface, but state lawmakers may have stirred up discussion. Similar bills are already popping up in other states, like Arizona.

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