Airbnb and ClassPass air antitrust concerns with lawmakers after App Store tussle

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Vacation rental company Airbnb and fitness class service ClassPass have spoken with House lawmakers’ offices about antitrust concerns raised by Apple’s 30 percent App Store commission, The New York Times reports. Both companies had started offering virtual services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, only for Apple to get in contact to request 30 percent of sales made through their iOS apps.

The news that both companies have met with lawmakers comes the day before Apple CEO Tim Cook is due to testify in front of the antitrust panel of the House Judiciary Committee, alongside the CEOs of Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Apple’s policy of taking 30 percent of fees paid through the App Store is expected to be discussed during the hearing, with critics alleging that the fee makes it harder to compete with Apple’s first-party services. Apple does not offer services that compete with either Airbnb or ClassPass, however.

Both companies started offering virtual services due to the pandemic

The committee has amassed at least 1.3 million documents throughout the course of its investigation, held five hearings, and spent hundreds of hours conducting interviews as it investigates the big tech companies.

The EU also opened an antitrust investigation of its own into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay policies earlier this year.

In the case of ClassPass, The New York Times reports that it started offering virtual exercise classes as gyms closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it dropped its standard commission on virtual classes to pass the entirety of revenue along to the gyms themselves. It reportedly paid no fee to Apple previously but was asked to pay 30 percent after its classes became virtual. In response, it reportedly stopped offering virtual classes through its iPhone app. According to the NYT, ClassPass was told it had until the end of the month to start paying the fee, but Apple said it had until the end of the year to comply.

Meanwhile, Airbnb started offering “online experiences” like cooking classes and meditation sessions in response to the pandemic. It’s an expansion of the experiences it started offering alongside its traditional vacation rentals back in 2016. The New York Times reports that Airbnb is still in negotiations with Apple.

Airbnb and ClassPass would not be the first companies to complain about Apple’s App Store policies. One high-profile example came earlier this year, when Basecamp got embroiled in a bitter battle with Apple over its 30 percent commission policy after launching its Hey email service. Apple initially blocked its iOS app from receiving updates because there was no way to sign up in-app, then eventually allowed the app onto its store when Hey said it would offer email addresses for free that expire after 14 days.

Amid these complaints, the amount of money Apple is earning from services is booming. In its second-quarter earnings in April, Cook reported an “all-time record” for the amount of revenue generated by Apple’s services division, which increased to $13.3 billion from $11.5 billion a year previously.

“To ensure every developer can create and grow a successful business, Apple maintains a clear, consistent set of guidelines that apply equally to everyone,” Apple told The New York Times in a statement. It said that its app guidelines date back to 2010.

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