Spotify drags Apple to the EU for failing to comply despite the 1.84 billion euros fine


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In a landmark move, Spotify has taken Apple to task in the European Union over alleged anticompetitive practices, despite Apple being hit with a hefty 1.84 billion euro fine. This legal saga has brought to light the complexities of competition in the digital marketplace and raised significant concerns about fair play and market dominance.

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Background

The conflict between Spotify and Apple stems from Spotify’s accusations that Apple unfairly favours its services, such as Apple Music, over competitors like Spotify. This preferential treatment includes imposing a 30% fee on Spotify’s subscriptions through the App Store while exempting its services from such charges. This disparity has fueled Spotify’s discontent and led to a legal showdown in the EU.

After investigating the case, the EU fined Apple 1.84 billion euros for violating antitrust in the music streaming service market on the iOS mobile platform. The fine targets Apple’s implementation of an “anti-bootstrap clause”. This clause prevents app developers from providing users with information about alternative and cheaper music subscription services outside of its App Store.

The fine stems from an antitrust complaint filed by Spotify in March 2019. Spotify said Apple’s App Store rules “intentionally limit choice, stifle innovation, and at the expense of user experience”. It also accused Apple of being “both an athlete and the referee” who deliberately put other app developers at a disadvantage.

As early as June 2020, the European Union announced a formal antitrust investigation into the App Store. At that time, the EU expressed concern that the conditions and restrictions imposed by Apple may distort competition. For example, the “anti-guidance clause” prevents developers from informing users that there are more mobile apps outside the Apple Store with cheaper payment methods.

In April 2021, the European Commission officially stated objections, accusing Apple of distorting competition in the music streaming service market by operating the App Store. Three years later, the EU confirmed that Apple violated its antitrust rules and fined the company

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EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said:

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“For a decade, Apple has abused its market dominance in distributing music streaming apps through the App Store. They have restricted developers from telling consumers outside of the Apple ecosystem alternative, cheaper music services to do just that.”

Spotify drags Apple to the EU again

Spotify recently sent a letter to the European Commission. In its letter, it accuses Apple of refusing to update its Spotify app. It also accuses Apple’s App Store of failing to implement and fulfil EU regulatory requirements.

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The European Commission ruled on March 4 that Apple abused its market dominance by preventing music streaming services from informing users of non-in-app purchases and more affordable subscription prices. This decision led to the 1.84 billion euros in fines.

Apple was asked to remove “anti-bootstrap clauses” within the European Union, and Spotify submitted an app update on March 5 that included subscription pricing tiers and the option to pay without in-app purchases. Spotify said Apple has not responded since submitting the update.

Spotify told the European Commission that Apple deliberately delayed time so that it could have more time to think about countermeasures and try to avoid and not comply with the European Commission’s decision. The company is asking the European Commission to require Apple to approve app updates.

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Legal Implications and Challenges

The legal landscape surrounding tech giants like Apple and Spotify is complex. Spotify had to drag Apple to the EU again after the initial fine. There are issues of antitrust, market dominance, and regulatory compliance at the forefront. The challenges faced by both companies reflect broader concerns about monopolistic practices, consumer choice, and the role of legislation in regulating digital markets.

Conclusion

The clash between Spotify and Apple in the EU underscores the evolving dynamics of competition in the digital age. With Spotify’s bold move to challenge Apple’s practices despite the hefty fine imposed by the EU, the tech industry is witnessing a pivotal moment that could reshape how companies operate within digital marketplaces. Furthermore, as this legal saga unfolds, it raises critical questions about fairness, regulation, and the balance of power in an increasingly interconnected world.

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