Apple Hit With Fourth Fine Over App Store Fees In Netherlands

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Fourth week in a row Dutch antitrust watchdog fines Apple 5m euros for preventing app developers from using other payment methods

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

For the fourth 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.

It comes after 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.

apple store the grove los angeles
Apple Store at The Grove in Los Angeles. Image credit: Apple

Dutch investigation

In 2019 the Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) had begun an investigation into Apple’s practice of requiring app developers to use in-app payment systems and pay a commission of 15 to 30 percent.

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 to do so, and faces a fine of 5 million euros (£4m) per week, up to a maximum of 50 million euros if it fails to comply.

Since that time, the ACM has been levying weekly fines of 5 million euros on Apple since the company missed the 15 January deadline to make changes ordered by the watchdog, Reuters reported.

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 said 7 February it had not been given enough information to assess the changes.

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.