Apple Faces Antitrust Complaint In India Over In-App Payments

Pressure continues to build on Apple over its up to 30 percent commission charges for in-app purchases.

The latest challenge on this front comes from India, where a little-known, non-profit group called “Together We Fight Society” filed an antitrust complaint this week against the tech giant.

The antitrust complaint will now be reviewed by the Indian watchdog, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which will decided upon the next steps, Reuters reported.

European probe

The complaint seen by Reuters against Apple alleges that the tech giant abuses its dominant position in the apps market by forcing developers to use its proprietary in-app purchase system.

It should be noted the allegations are similar to a case Apple faces in the European Union, after Spotify filed an official complaint in 2019 and accused Apple of unfairly using the dominance of its App Store to give the Apple Music service a competitive advantage.

European regulators began an investigation into Apple’s imposition of an in-app fee of 30 percent for distribution of paid digital content and other restrictions.

Apple has previously robustly defended its commission charge of between 15-30 percent for apps that use its in-app payment system. It also imposes strict rules that apps must comply with to appear in its App Store, which is the only venue where iPhone and iPad can download apps for their devices.

But in November 2020 Apple announced that the new App Store commission will fall from 30 percent down to 15 percent for small developers and businesses earning up to $1 million per year.

And Apple last week made a major change and agreed to allow small app developers to email their users about alternative purchase options to the App Store billing

Indian antitrust complaint

But this has not stopped the “Together We Fight Society” from filing its own antitrust complaint with Indian authorities.

The non-profit group argues Apple’s fee of up to 30 percent hurts competition by raising costs for app developers and customers, while also acting as a barrier to market entry.

“The existence of the 30 percent commission means that some app developers will never make it to the market … This could also result in consumer harm,” said the filing, which has been seen by Reuters.

Reuters reported that filings and details of cases reviewed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) are not made public.

Apple and the CCI did not respond to Reuter’s request for comment.

However, in the coming weeks, the CCI will review the case and could order its investigations arm to conduct a wider probe, or dismiss it altogether if it finds no merit in it, said a source familiar with the matter.

“There are high chances that an investigation can be ordered, also because the EU has been probing this,” said the person, who declined to be identified as the case details are not public.

There is another antitrust complaint that the CGI is currently investigating after Indian startups publicly voiced concern over a similar in-app payments fee charged by Google.

Android domination

Indian users are not big users of Apple products.

Indeed, only 2 percent of the 520 million smartphones in India during 2020, are powered by iOS, Reuters reported, citing Counterpoint Research.

Android is by far the biggest mobile OS in use on that country.

But Google is also facing the same pressure as Apple over its commission charges.

This week in South Korea, that country’s Parliament passed a bill called the ‘Telecommunications Business Act’, to stop Google and Apple from forcibly charging software developers up to a 30 percent commissions on in-app purchases.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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