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EU regulators eye the App Store gaming market after Apple antitrust charges

The EU charged Apple with violating antitrust law in the music streaming market, following Spotify's complaint.

EU regulators eye the App Store gaming market after Apple antitrust charges

Margrethe Vestager speaks during an online news conference on the Apple antitrust case at the EU headquarters in Brussels.

Photo: Francisco Seco/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday handed Spotify a major victory in its fight against the App Store by charging Apple with antitrust violations in the music streaming market, a direct result of Spotify's 2019 complaint. Now, the mobile gaming market on iOS might be next.

The EU is accusing of Apple of charging "high commission fees on rivals in the App Store" and forbidding those rivals from telling consumers of "alternative subscription options" that exist outside iOS, according to EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. In addition to outlining its argument against Apple's conduct in music streaming, Vestager says the EU is also eyeing the App Store gaming market on similar grounds.

"We also take an interest in the gaming app market," she said in an online news conference following the announcement, in response to a question about gaming apps on the App Store. "That's really early days when it comes to that."

The case the EU is making against Apple's conduct in the music streaming market mirrors in some ways the antitrust argument Epic Games is making against Apple with regard to Fortnite, which goes to trial Monday. In both cases, Apple critics allege it exercises illegal monopoly control over iOS app distribution, even if it doesn't have a legal monopoly over the operating system market itself.

In February, Epic expanded its legal fight against Apple to the EU by filing a separate antitrust complaint alleging Apple's "carefully designed anti-competitive restrictions" that have "completely eliminated competition in app distribution and payment processes." Apple dismissed the complaint at the time, saying Epic had "made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making this clear to the European Commission."

"We will not stand idly by and allow Apple to use its platform dominance to control what should be a level digital playing field," said Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, regarding the EU complaint. It's not clear right now how Epic's complaint will factor into any future EU investigation into the App Store gaming market.

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