Apple and App Store restrictions: the European Commission is getting tough

Alexander Boero

February 28, 2023 at 4:00 p.m.


apple app store spotify © Shutterstock

© Primakov/Shutterstock

The European Commission has now announced that it will focus its antitrust investigation on the restrictions that the Apple firm imposes on developers. And in particular to a certain Spotify.

Since the opening of its investigation against Apple linked to the rules imposed on developers who distribute their applications on the App Store, the European Commission has been putting pressure on the company. Brussels accuses the American giant of an abuse of a dominant position by imposing its technology on music streaming applications. In addition, the company prevents certain developers from informing iPhone and iPad owners about the existence or the way to subscribe to other subscription music services. The authority has decided to reposition its pawns to get to the point.

The European Commission continues its antitrust investigation

In the statement of objections relayed this Tuesday, February 28 to the Cupertino company, the European Commission announces rather to concentrate about the contractual restrictions that Apple has placed on app developers that prevent them from informing iPhone and iPad users of other subscription music options at lower prices outside of the app and how to actually choose them “.

Here, you will have understood that the institution refers, among other things, to the Spotify file, in open war for several years against Apple. The music streaming platform criticizes the American giant for taking 30% commission on purchases and subscriptions made from the App Store, but also for not informing users of other existing means (outside the Apple universe) to subscribe to services like Spotify.

The Commission considers that this latter behavior constitutes “ unfair trading conditions contrary to Section 102 of the TFEU, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Brussels criticizes Apple for limiting the choice and information offered to users

Brussels fears that the obligations now imposed by Apple on developers of music streaming applications will block them and prevent them from informing users about the possibility, the place and the procedure to follow to subscribe to services streaming at lower prices.

For the EU, these so-called “anti-steering” obligations are neither necessary nor proportionate for the provision of the App Store on Apple-branded devices. In addition, they are detrimental to users of these music services on iPhones and iPads, who pay more than the theoretical price to enjoy them. Finally, the Commission considers that they have a negative impact on the interests of music app developers.

For the moment, the institution is still listening to Apple. But if, at the end of its investigation, it ends up concluding that there is sufficient evidence constituting an infringement, it has the power to sanction the company. The penalty can also range from a simple prohibition of the behavior raised to a fine of up to 10% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover. It is not yet known when this investigation will be completed.

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