Back in March of 2019, Spotify named Apple in a European Union antitrust complaint, centering in part on the 30 percent fee that third-party companies must pay on certain App Store transactions. Now, nearly two years later, EU officials are taking the complaint seriously, and charges could be forthcoming for Apple.
To recap, Spotify (and specifically CEO Daniel Ek) publicly unveiled its EU antitrust complaint against Apple in a blog post, noting at the outset that it had moved forward with the action only “after careful consideration.”
The Stockholm-based streaming platform also maintained that Apple’s rules “purposely limit choice and stifle innovation” – before linking to a standalone website, “Time to Play Fair,” featuring a more comprehensive breakdown of its qualms as well as regular updates about the status of the complaint.
Apple promptly responded with a blog post of its own, entitled “Addressing Spotify’s claims,” defending the App Store and the fee for in-app digital transactions.
“Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem — including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers — without making any contributions to that marketplace,” Apple wrote, prior to highlighting Spotify’s alleged failure to mention that the 30 percent fee “drops to 15 percent” after the first year of an annual subscription.
Then, in mid-June of 2020, the European Commission (the EU’s executive branch) formally revealed that it had launched two investigations into Apple’s business practices, pertaining to Spotify’s complaint as well as a separate complaint from Rakuten-owned e-book company Kobo.
The first of these inquiries would seek to determine whether Apple’s App Store terms “violate EU competition rules,” the Commission indicated, with the second analysis focusing on possible competition-rule infractions with regard to Apple Pay itself. And about one week after these probes came to light, some suggested that U.S. government officials were considering launching an antitrust investigation against Apple.
Now, however, the European Union – which has fined Google nearly $10 billion to date – may be preparing to issue Apple a charge sheet based upon Spotify’s complaint “in the coming weeks,” according to a report from Reuters.
Two anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter also relayed that the Commission could provide Apple with a statement of objections – or a written collection of “the objections raised against them” – before the start of summer.
Separately, Fortnite creator Epic Games remains embroiled in a high-profile legal battle with Apple – once again centering on the Cupertino-headquartered company’s App Store fee – and the lawsuit is officially set to head to trial on May 3rd, nearly nine months after the underlying dispute went public.