Back in 2021, the European Commission issued antitrust charges against Apple after deciding that the company may have abused its dominant position when it comes to music streaming applications. The commission sent the tech giant a Statement of Objections listing issues it believed warranted further investigation. In it, the EU’s executive body outlined its issues with Apple, namely making developers use its payment system and preventing them from telling subscribers about alternative (and often cheaper) options to payments outside of iOS apps. Now, the commission announced that its antitrust investigation will only touch on the second issue, or the “anti-steering obligations” imposed by Apple on developers.
The revised Statement of Objections dropped its position regarding the legality of the company making developers use its in-app payment system. These are all anti-steering allegations instead, citing concerns that Apple’s rule prevents developers from informing users about cheaper subscription prices elsewhere.
The commission said that these anti-steering obligations imposed on developers are “unfair trading conditions” in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’). . It explained that the obligations were “not necessary or proportionate for the provision of the App Store on iPhones and iPads,” that they would harm Apple users who tend to pay more, and that they would negatively affect developers. in streaming music. “by limiting effective consumer choice.”
This particular antitrust case is the result of a complaint filed by Spotify against Apple in 2019, in which it accused the tech giant of discriminatory practices designed to suppress Apple Music competitors. If the commission decides that Apple has in fact violated antitrust laws, then it can prohibit conduct that violates the rules – in this case, preventing developers from teaching users external payment options – and can fine the company up to 10 percent of its annual worldwide turnover. Apple said The Wall Street Journal that it is pleased that the size of its case has been reduced and that it hopes that the commission will “end its pursuit of a complaint without merit.”
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