European regulators announced on Tuesday that they’ve narrowed their antitrust case against tech giant Apple, dropping a charge related to how it requires developers to use its own in-app payment system.
However, the European Commission has now shifted its focus to the company’s practice of not allowing developers to inform users about third-party payment options.
‘’Today’s Statement of Objections clarifies that the Commission does no longer take a position as to the legality of the IAP obligation for the purposes of this antitrust investigation but rather focuses on the contractual restrictions that Apple imposed on app developers which prevent them from informing iPhone and iPad users of alternative music subscription options at lower prices outside of the app and to effectively choose those,’’ the Commission said.
‘’The Commission takes the preliminary view that Apple’s anti-steering obligations are unfair trading conditions in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’).’’
It added that Apple’s anti-steering obligations are “neither necessary nor proportionate for the provision of the App Store on iPhones and iPads“, ‘’detrimental to users of music streaming services on Apple’s mobile devices who may end up paying more’’, and ‘’negatively affect the interests of music streaming app developers by limiting effective consumer choice’’.
The European Commission sent its so-called statement of objections to Apple in April 2021, after music streaming giant Spotify filed a complaint against the company accusing it of abusing its power.
Following the announcement, Spotify’s General Counsel Eve Konstan said: “Today, the European Commission sent a clear message that Apple’s anti-competitive behavior and unfair practices have harmed consumers and disadvantaged developers for far too long. We urge the Commission to reach a swift decision in this case to protect consumers and restore fair competition on the iOS platform.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Apple said that they would continue to collaborate with the Commission to address their concerns while encouraging competition and consumer choice.
‘’We’re pleased that the Commission has narrowed its case and is no longer challenging Apple’s right to collect a commission for digital goods and require the use of the In-App Payment systems users trust,’’ the spokesperson added. ‘’The App Store has helped Spotify become the top music streaming service across Europe and we hope the European Commission will end its pursuit of a complaint that has no merit.”
As in other parts of the world, Apple has long faced scrutiny in Europe over its practices, which are usually brought to the table by its competitors. In January, Spotify joined a group of media companies including Deezer, Proton and Basecamp that urged the European Commission to take immediate action against the iPhone-maker.
Meanwhile, the company is reportedly preparing to roll out radical changes to its business in Europe, such as allowing third party app stores on iOS, in order to comply with the upcoming EU requirements.