Apple and Spotify are once again locked in a legal battle as the European Union’s antitrust case against Apple continues to unfold. The EU’s preliminary conclusion in 2021 indicated that Apple’s App Store unfairly favored its own music streaming service, Apple Music, over Spotify and other competitors.
According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple’s lawyers will argue on Friday that the company has taken steps to address competition concerns in the past two years and that further changes are unnecessary. However, Spotify has dismissed recent App Store policy modifications as mere window dressing that fail to address the core issue of Apple’s anti-steering rules.
If Apple is found to have violated EU law, it could face a substantial fine. However, there is no specific timeline for the conclusion of the EU’s investigation.
In February, the EU dropped a portion of its complaint related to Apple’s commission fees on digital goods and the requirement to use the company’s In-App Purchase system. The remaining complaint centers around Apple’s prohibition on apps informing customers about alternative subscription methods, such as signing up through a web browser.
As Apple’s lawyers have pointed out, the company has relaxed its anti-steering rules to some extent since the initial complaint in 2021. “Reader” apps can now apply for an external link entitlement, allowing them to provide users with a link for account creation or management.
Spotify, however, contends that these changes are inconsequential to the crux of the complaint and continues to support the EU’s current charge sheet. In a statement to Bloomberg, the company said, “These rules still exist today, and Apple’s supposed changes, in fact, change nothing at all and are just for show. We support the European Commission and believe that the ‘charge sheet’ addresses Apple’s unfair business practices.”
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In certain geographical markets, developers can use the External Link entitlement to prompt transactions outside of the In-App Purchase system. For example, this applies to Dutch dating apps in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Apple still requires developers to pay a commission of 27%, slightly lower than the standard 30% rate for In-App Purchases, on the revenue collected.
The ongoing legal battle between Apple and Spotify in the EU reflects the wider scrutiny of tech giants’ alleged anticompetitive practices. As the case progresses, both companies will eagerly await the outcome, which could have significant implications for the future of the App Store and the broader app ecosystem.