Spotify files complaint against Apple with European Commission for unfair practices

13 March 2019

Spotify today announced that it is filing a complaint with the European Commission against Apple. Spotify is claiming anti-competitive and discriminatory behavior on Apple's part with regards to the operation of the App Store.

According to Spotify, Apple has repeatedly made it difficult for companies like Spotify to provide services to its customers. Spotify has provided an entire timeline of the events, going all the way back to 2010 when Apple started changing the guidelines for its App Store.

The timeline eventually moves to more serious issues, where Apple disallowed alternate payment systems within apps on the App Store and forcing developers to use its own iTunes payment system, which comes with a 30% cut. When choosing not to use this system, Spotify could no longer allow its customers to upgrade to the premium plans through the app itself.

Apple eventually also stopped developers from providing links to external payment systems or even hinting at alternate payment systems within their apps. Then there were other issues, where Apple would not allow Spotify to have an Apple Watch app or work with Siri. Even when the HomePod launched, there was no support for services like Spotify.

The main problem here is that Apple not just operates the App Store, but also the competitor to Spotify in the form of Apple Music. Apple Music does not have to pay the Apple tax, so for the brief period where Spotify did use Apple's payment system they had to increase their price, which made Apple Music seem like the better deal. (Since then Spotify has shifted back to offering subscriptions only through its website.)

Of course, Spotify is not the only one who has been burned by Apple's practices. Amazon famously does not allow users to purchase books through its Kindle app on iOS because it does not want to give Apple the 30% cut on every book. Netflix recently stopped allowing iOS users from subscribing to their plans from within the app as they too no longer wanted to pay the Apple tax.

Meanwhile, other developers have also complained about Apple's constantly evolving App Store guidelines, which feels shifting goalposts that the company changes on a whim, often to suit its own interests while claiming to do so on behalf of its users.

Having said that, some apps are mysteriously exempt from the Apple tax, including big names like Uber, which do allow you to make payments within the app without using Apple's system.

Spotify is not suing for money. Instead, the company is asking for fair set of rules that apple to everyone on the App Store, including Apple itself. Also, that consumers should have the choice of using whichever payment system they want within the apps and that developers should not be prevented from communicating with its users when it comes to marketing and promotions.

All of these seem like perfectly reasonable requests so now we wait for the European Commission to take a decision.

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