Apple Fined For Fifth Time Over App Store Fees In Netherlands

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Another $5.7 million fine for Apple in the Netherlands, after it continues to ignore watchdog ruling on alternative payment methods for dating apps

Apple has once again been fined for not complying with an order in the Netherlands that it must allow some app developers to use alternative payment systems.

For the fifth week in a row, the Dutch antitrust watchdog fined Apple 5 million euros ($5.7m or £4.2m) on Monday, for failing to allow app makers in the Netherlands to use non-Apple payment methods for dating apps on the App Store.

The watchdog in December made the decision that Apple must allow some app developers to use alternative payment systems. Apple disagreed and said it would appeal.

Image credit: Apple
Image credit: Apple


Dutch investigation

The Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) began its investigation into Apple’s practice of requiring app developers to use in-app payment systems and pay a commission of 15 to 30 percent back in 2019.

The system has also come under scrutiny from other regulators around the world.

The Dutch investigation was later reduced in scope to focus on dating apps, including those of Match Group, which operates Tinder, and OkCupid.

It then ordered Apple to adjust the “unreasonable” terms in its App Store for dating app providers, allowing them to use alternative payment systems.

Apple was given until 15 January 2022 to do so, and since then, the ACM has been levying weekly fines of 5 million euros on Apple. It will fine Appe up to a maximum of 50 million euros if it fails to comply.

However Apple on 15 January asserted it had complied with the Dutch regulator’s decision. But the regulator said that Apple had not made changes – it had just indicated it would.

On 3 February Apple made a statement laying out how developers could implement the alternative payment methods.

Apple said it intends to charge a 27 percent commission on in-app payments it does not process, only slightly below the 30 percent it charges on those it does currently process.

The ACM reportedly rejected Apple’s move as putting an unreasonable burden on software developers and not amounting to compliance.

The ACM said Apple had not made any new proposal to comply with its ruling in the past week, Reuters reported.

“We have clearly explained to Apple how they can comply…,” the watchdog was quoted as saying in a statement. “So far, however, they have refused to put forward any serious proposals.”

Apple declined comment on Monday.

Now on Monday 21 February the ACM has imposed its fifth 5 million euros fine on Apple, Reuters reported.

In-app payments

It is fair to say that Apple has faced challenges to its in-app payment policies in a number of countries, including South Korea, which passed a law last August that requires major platforms such as Apple and Google to allow third-party payment options.

Google has said it will allow such payments, but will charge a commission. Apple has not commented on its plans for compliance.

The company is facing proposed legislation in the EU and the US that could force it to change its in-app payment policies and other business practices.

It should be remembered that Apple defeated most aspects of a lawsuit by Epic Games over the issue, but a judge did find Apple had violated California steering laws.

Apple appealed the ruling in October, and an appeals court stayed the decision.