Proposed antitrust legislation bans companies from making pre-installed apps unremovable

Technology

As regulators continue to probe big tech companies over monopolistic behavior, legislators in the US are already introducing several antitrust bills that would affect how companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and others operate. One of them would demand that users be given the option to uninstall pre-installed apps.

In the wake of last year’s congressional antitrust investigations, lawmakers have proposed a new bill that would force Apple and other smartphone makers to make their default apps removable by the user. For instance, iPhone users would have to have the ability to uninstall Apple’s Phone, Clock, Messages, Mail, FaceTime, and other default apps if they choose.

“It would be equally easy to download the other five apps as the Apple one, so they’re not using their market dominance to favor their own products and services,” Democratic Representative David Cicilline said.

It’s worth mentioning that Apple had already made moves to allow the deletion of some of its default apps before Congress even introduced the bill. Notes, Mail, Calendar, Weather, and even FaceTime can be fully uninstalled. Other apps, including Phone, Messages, Clock, Wallet, and Watch, cannot be removed but can be hidden from view.

Additionally, the legislation does not explicitly target Apple or smartphone makers in general. It also prohibits tech companies outside the realm of hardware manufacturing from “self-preferring” products. For instance, Amazon’s Prime subscription service would have to be restructured since it “disadvantages some sellers who rely on the e-commerce platform,” Cicilline said.

Bloomberg asked Cicilline if Microsoft would fall into the bill’s restrictions. However, the lawmaker gave a vague answer saying it would be up to the US Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to make that determination. There are also a couple of limitations to the bill. For one, it only applies to products and services with more than 50 million monthly active users. Secondly, the owning company must have a market capitalization of $600 billion or more.