US lawmakers raise concerns over Apple’s crypto and NFT policies

Two United States lawmakers have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising concern about how the company’s guidelines may restrict crypto and NFTs.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Florida and his Illinois counterpart Jan Schakowsky, on July 28, jointly sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook expressing concern that Apple’s App Store guidelines could potentially curb the growth of emerging technologies such as blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

Today, I sent a bipartisan letter to @Apple regarding iOS App Store policies and their impact on emerging technologies like blockchains and NFTs. Congress must understand if Apple’s policies are limiting innovation and American technological leadership. Full letter below:— Gus Bilirakis (@RepGusBilirakis) July 28, 2023

The two lawmakers claim Apple App Store’s policies could affect the country’s leadership status in the technological landscape.
The letter posed several questions to Cook, asking for detailed information and documents regarding the App Store’s policies.
It also highlighted concerns about Apple’s plans to develop blockchain-based apps. It questioned whether the company is leveraging its app rules to boost revenue at the expense of crypto-related applications.

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One of the anti-crypto policies cited in the letter included the requirement for blockchain projects to relinquish 30% of their gas fees to the App Store.
In December 2022, Coinbase Wallet claimed that such a requirement was impossible to comply with since Apple’s in-app purchase system did not support crypto.

You might have noticed you can’t send NFTs on Coinbase Wallet iOS anymore. This is because Apple blocked our last app release until we disabled the feature. 🧵— Coinbase Wallet 🛡️ (@CoinbaseWallet) December 1, 2022

Bilirakis, a Republican, and Schakowsky, a Democrat, hold ranking positions in the Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee and have emphasized the need for Congress to understand the implications of the App Store guidelines on innovation and tech leadership.

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Key figures in the crypto space have welcomed the inquiry.
Coinbase’s Chief Legal Officer, Paul Grewal, and Kristin Smith, the Chief Executive of the crypto advocacy group Blockchain Association, both publicly praised the initiative by Bilirakis and Schakowsky.

Here’s a bipartisan issue that doesn’t require reconceiving the consumer welfare standard and decades of precedent surrounding it. Are Americans well-served by arbitrary applications of a single giant’s App Store policies?— paulgrewal.eth (@iampaulgrewal) July 28, 2023

Former App Store director Phillip Shoemaker, who crafted the original guidelines with the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, previously stated that they had been rewritten to position Apple as a “gatekeeper” to emerging technologies.
He claimed that the rewrite intentionally made Apple’s policies vague while maintaining a harsh stance against crypto and NFTs.

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According to Shoemaker, acceptance into the Apple or Google app stores may make or break a project. Meanwhile, a rejection can have severe consequences for creators.    
The lawmakers have given Apple a deadline of August 14 to respond to their questions about the App Store’s crypto policies.

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