Spotify Files EU Antitrust over Fee in the Apple App Store

Ruben Fields
March 14, 2019

The investment firm said such interference "holds no practical goal other than to force competitive services into higher cost structures and unfairly tax service activity on the iOS platform".

In an antitrust complaint to the European Commission, the music streaming service accused Apple of abusing its control over its App Store and unfairly "taxing" apps like Spotify that compete with Apple's own streaming service, said Daniel Ek, the company's chief executive.

However, Ek said he has now been forced to officially lodge a complaint with the European commission after Apple introduced what he claimed were wider anti-competitive practices that has made it "both player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers".

Monday's official complaint marks a public escalation in the music-streaming service's long-running battle with Apple.

A source told Business Insider that the difference is how Apple and Google behave with apps that circumvent their app-store fees. Apple Music does not have to pay the Apple tax, so for the brief period where Spotify did use Apple's payment system they had to increase their price, which made Apple Music seem like the better deal.

The problem boils down to the fact that Apple won't allow Spotify to advertise that subscriptions are cheaper through its website, not the app. The Spotify CEO said that ignoring Apple's payment system could cause serious damages to their communication with customers.

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If Spotify was to ditch Apple's payment system, Ek continues, "Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify".

For example, they won't let us market to our customers who use our app on iOS. He explained that the charge could push Spotify to inflate its prices above the cost for a subscription to Apple Music, Apple's music streaming service.

Spotify argues that its complaint to regulators is not about seeking "special treatment" in its global music battle against Apple but the same treatment as numerous other apps such as Uber and Deliveroo, which are not subject to the 30% app store charge.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Spotify claims that the pricing model in the App Store favors Apple services giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Also, that consumers should have the choice of using whichever payment system they want within the apps and that developers should not be prevented from communicating with its users when it comes to marketing and promotions. Then there were other issues, where Apple would not allow Spotify to have an Apple Watch app or work with Siri. "We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions, including Apple Music". It's not something we ever have-or will-shy away from.

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