European Commission drops key charge against Apple over forcing developers to use App Store payment system as case nears second year
The European Commission has narrowed an antitrust case it brought against Apple nearly two years ago, focusing on App Store policies that it said at the time gave it an effective “monopoly” on iPhone and iPad music streaming services.
The Commission said it will now focus on App Store rules that prevent developers from informing users of other ways they can make purchases, bypassing Apple’s own payment mechanism.
The EU’s executive branch said the restriction violates the bloc’s rules against unfair trading conditions.
Apple charges commissions of up to 30 percent on purchases made through its own system.
The Commission said Apple’s “anti-steering obligations” for developers are “neither necessary nor proportionate for the provision of the App Store on iPhones and iPads and that they are detrimental to users of music streaming services on Apple’s mobile devices who may end up paying more”.
The Commission said it was dropping an earlier charge that focused on Apple’s requirement that developers use Apple’s own payment system.
Apple said it was pleased the Commission had narrowed its case and said it would continue to work with the regulator to understand and respond to its concerns.
The firm added that its App Store had helped Spotify become a top music-streaming service “and we hope the European Commission will end its pursuit of a complaint that has no merit”.
The Commission filed its initial charges against Apple in May 2021, following an investigation based on an official March 2019 complaint by Sweden’s Spotify, one of the biggest music streaming services.
Digital Markets Act
Apple said at the time “no store in the world” allows developers to “advertise alternative deals” on their apps.
“Once again, they want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that,” Apple stated. “The Commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition.”
The EU is bringing in new rules this year under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that may force changes to the way smartphone app stores operate.
Bloomberg reported in December that Apple was working on mechanisms to open up elements of the App Store and the iPhone and iPad platforms, such as allowing alternative app purchasing platforms, in the event that the company is obliged to do so under the DMA.