the European Union has charged Apple with allegedly “abus[ing] its dominant position” in the music streaming market.
The charges stem from an initial complaint filed by Spotify in 2019. At the time, Spotify accused Apple of having “an unfair advantage at every turn” by imposing a series of obstacles that favored its own services at the expense of competitors. As it turns out, the European Commission seems to agree with Spotify.
“By setting strict rules on the App Store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition,” the European Commission said in a tweet.
The Commission further explained in a press release that it took issue with Apple’s role as a gatekeeper to the iOS ecosystem. Because the App Store is the only venue for developers to reach iOS users, the Commission contends that elevates Apple to a dominant position within the music streaming market. In particular, it singled out Apple’s mandatory 30% commission for in-app purchases and “anti-steering provisions.” The latter refers to limitations within the App Store that prevent developers from informing consumers of alternative payment options that might be cheaper. That in turn forces rival music streaming services to raise subscription prices for consumers to make up for their higher costs—all while Apple benefits by acting as a middle man for in-app billing and communications with consumers.
It’s a no-brainer that each company would point to the other as being in the wrong here. But it’s clear that Apple’s 30% commission and control over in-app transactions is a sore point for multiple companies. Next week, Epic Games will also go to federal court to argue that Apple abused its power to kick Fortnite out of the App Store. That dramatic brouhaha last summer sparked a number of app developers—including Spotify, Tile, and Epic Games—to form the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF), a nonprofit that aims to fight against the so-called Apple tax and other anticompetitive app store policies.
. If found guilty, Apple could face up to a 10% fine on its annual revenue—which, any way you slice it would be a lot of money. However, the Commission says that there are “no legal deadlines for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end” and that an investigation will last as long as it needs to, “depend[ing] on a number of factors.” In other words, while this is a major milestone in Apple’s App Store antitrust saga, it’s far, far, far from being over.
I have been talking about ending the monopoly stranglehold big tech has been excersising since early 2019 so it’s good to see the end of this is all coming together finally