US Lawmakers Call for DOJ to Investigate Apple for Blocking Beeper’s iMessage App – Apple’s decision to block Beeper, the application that enabled iMessage on Android, has drawn scrutiny from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who criticized the tech company for engaging in anticompetitive actions.
Now, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Apple’s “potential anticompetitive treatment of the Beeper Mini messaging application,” noting that “interoperability and interconnections have long been key drivers of competition and consumer choice in communications services.”
Addressed to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kanter, the letter bears the signatures of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Mike Lee, Representative Jerry Nadler, and Representative Ken Buck. In it, they note that the Dept. of Commerce had earlier this year described Apple as a “gatekeeper” with a “monopoly position” in its mobile app ecosystem.
They also referred to Beeper CEO Eric Migicovsky‘s testimony in December 2015 before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, where he had expressed concern that “dominant messages services would use their position to impose barriers to interoperability” and would prevent Beeper from operating.
“Given Apple’s recent actions, that concern appears prescient,” the letter stated. Because of the anticompetitive nature of Apple’s actions, the lawmakers referred this matter to the Dept. of Justice’s Antitrust Division to investigate further. The letter marks the latest episode in the ongoing conflict between startup Beeper and Apple.
Earlier this month, Beeper introduced Beeper Mini, an app utilizing innovative technology to enable Android users to participate in blue bubble iMessage chats. Concurrently, Beeper’s original app, a messaging service aggregator, was rebranded as Beeper Cloud, while the focus shifted to advancing Beeper Mini for a comprehensive user transition.
Initially priced at $1.99 per month, Beeper Mini’s subscription fee was later waived as Apple disrupted Beeper’s message delivery capabilities. Despite Beeper implementing a fix, Apple continued to target Beeper’s users, intentionally blocking messages for approximately 5% of the user base, according to the company.
Apple argued that Beeper’s techniques “posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks,” which is why it took “steps to protect” its users. The founder and CEO of Beeper, Eric Migicovsky, who previously created the Pebble smartwatch, has urged Apple to consent to an independent third-party security audit for Beeper’s app.
This would allow him to demonstrate the app’s adherence to end-to-end encryption, a commitment made by Beeper. However, Apple has not accepted this proposal. The Beeper Mini app presently operates by enabling users to authenticate using their Apple ID and will continue to be offered free of charge until any potential interference from Apple is resolved.