EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager announced antitrust charges against Apple's App Store rules on Friday. The European Commission said that in its preliminary view, Apple has "abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps."
"By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition," Vestager added. "This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options."
The charges, filed as part of a "statement of objections," are still preliminary. Apple has the opportunity to reply and request a formal hearing before any final decision and penalty is decided.
Apple will likely challenge the charges: In a statement responding to them, Apple said "Spotify has become the largest music subscription service in the world, and we're proud for the role we played in that," noting that Spotify doesn't pay Apple a commission on 99% of its subscribers. "At the core of this case is Spotify's demand they should be able to advertise alternative deals on their iOS app, a practice that no store in the world allows," Apple said. "Once again, they want all the benefits of the App Store but don't think they should have to pay anything for that. The Commission's argument on Spotify's behalf is the opposite of fair competition."
The charges are the latest step in a long investigation into Apple. Spotify first complained to the EU about Apple in March 2019, saying that Apple's 30% commission unfairly advantaged Apple Music and that Apple's restrictions on alternative payment methods weren't fair. The EU opened an investigation into Apple's App Store rules in June 2020.
Apple isn't the first company to be hit with EU antitrust charges in the latest regulatory crackdown. In November, the European Commission said it had preliminarily established that Amazon had breached antitrust rules by using third-party sellers' data to compete with them. Further back, Google has been fined for anticompetitive behavior with Google Shopping, Android and AdSense.