MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Senator Al Franken is joining the ranks of Taylor Swift by taking on one of the country’s most powerful companies. He’s asking the attorney general to look into the business practices of Apple.

Sen. Franken said he thinks the company may have too much control over the streaming music industry.  He wrote this letter to the attorney general, saying he’s afraid Apple Music may undermine the consumer’s ability to make choices and pay lower prices.

Apple recently launched a streaming music service to compete with Spotify, Pandora and others.

“I’m not necessarily going up against them, I’m asking the FTC to look into this.” Sen. Franken said on a call to WCCO from Washington, D.C.  He went on to say, “This is whether consumers will have as many choices as possible at the lowest cost.”

Sen. Franken told WCCO he’s worried the company is engaging in anti-competitive behavior, saying he is concerned about certain practices. Like how Apple takes a 30 percent cut of its competitors’ revenues from purchases made in apps, as well as app sales.

Joel Waldfogel is an expert on streaming music. He’s also a professor at the University of Minnesota. We asked him about the letter.

“It’s a two handed economist problem,” he said.

“He’s right in the sense that if there were more competition than prices would fall even more,” Waldfogel said of Sen. Franken. But he says all streaming services offer much better prices than we used to pay way back when.

“Compared to the old world this is a pretty good world for consumers. The money has to come from somewhere, but it’s not really coming from consumers in the sense that prices are much lower than they used to be,”Waldfogel said.

The professor said public questioning of Apple could work, but he says it’s most effective when a major money maker like Taylor Swift calls them out. She got Apple to change their policy and start paying artists during the free trial period of Apple Music.

Sen. Franken has submitted his letter and says he just wants this investigated to make sure things in the streaming industry are fair.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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