Apple spends record $2.5m on lobbying amid growing regulatory scrutiny

The iPhone maker lobbied on antitrust bills that aim to curtail power of tech companies

Apple’s lobbying expenditures increased by more than 34 per cent from the $1.86 million the company spent in the fourth quarter of 2021. Reuters

Apple spent a record quarterly high of $2.5 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2022 amid increased pressure from the US Congress on technology companies over antitrust issues.

Apple’s lobbying expenditures increased more than 34 per cent from the $1.86 million the company spent in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to disclosure reports released on Wednesday. The previous high was $2.2m, spent in the second quarter of 2017.

Apple disclosed lobbying on dozens of issues and measures, including antitrust bills intended to curtail the power of big technology companies.

The Open App Markets Act is one of the antitrust measures with bipartisan support under consideration in Congress. The bill would prevent app market operators, including Apple and Google, from giving preferential treatment to their own products.

The legislation would prohibit owners from requiring developers to use in-app payment systems owned by the platform. It would also ban owners from requiring more favourable pricing or conditions compared to other app stores or punishing the developers for different pricing terms elsewhere.

Alphabet’s Google spent $2.96m in the first three months of 2022. That’s a 34 per cent increase from the previous quarter, but the same amount the company spent during the first quarter of 2021.

Microsoft reported spending $2.5m on lobbying in the first quarter. That was an increase of 2.8 per cent over the previous quarter but down 1.9 per cent from a year ago.

In January, the Senate Judiciary committee approved a bill aimed at Apple, Google, Meta Platforms and Amazon.com that would prevent large online platforms from giving an advantage to their own products and unfairly limiting the ability of another business to compete against the platform’s operator.

Amazon spent just under $5m in the quarter, ticking up 1 per cent from the previous quarter and 3.5 per cent the year prior.

Meta also faces pressure from a monopoly lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in an effort to force the company to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

Meta spent $5.39m on lobbying in the first quarter, which is slightly less than the previous quarter, but more than a 12 per cent increase from what it spent during the same period last year.

Non-US based technology firms also shelled out money to lobby Congress on their issues. Huawei Technologies spent $906,000 in the first quarter of this year, a nearly 8 per cent decrease from last quarter, but more than four times what it spent a year ago. Huawei has fought against efforts from Congress and President Joe Biden to increase restrictions on the company.

Politicians have raised concerns about how ByteDance’s TikTok collects and stores data and how the app impacts children and teenagers. ByteDance spent $930,000 on lobbying in the first quarter, a 16 per cent decrease from the previous quarter, but a 33 per cent increase from the same time period last year.

Updated: April 22, 2022, 5:00 AM