Apple Updates Policies for Music Streaming Platforms in Europe

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About one month after being slapped with a nearly $2 billion European Union fine in connection with a years-old complaint levied by Spotify, Apple has officially updated its App Store policies for music streaming platforms in the EU.  

The Cupertino-based company just recently announced these streaming-specific pivots, after being ordered by the European Commission in early March to pay the mentioned $1.95 billion. That massive fine (and non-monetary elements of the penalty) stemmed from a 2019 complaint submitted by Spotify, which has long criticized Apple’s App Store fees and policies.

Even a recap of the companies’ marathon dispute would require a substantial number of words. Particularly significant in light of the new App Store changes, however, is the Commission’s order for Apple “to remove the anti-steering provisions” at hand and to refrain “from adopting practices with an equivalent object or effect in the future.”

While the iPhone developer is appealing the ruling (and reportedly fending off different EU probes yet), it’s also adjusted its App Review Guidelines with a series of “Music Streaming Services Entitlements,” it announced in a brief alert.

In certain regions – namely EU nations, of course – music streaming platforms can now “include a link (which may take the form of a buy button) to the developer’s website that informs users of other ways to purchase digital music content or services,” Apple wrote in the relevant guidelines section.

“These entitlements also permit music streaming app developers to invite users to provide their email address for the express purpose of sending them a link to the developer’s website to purchase digital music content or services,” the company proceeded.

Notwithstanding this pivot and its significance for Spotify, logic and evidence suggest that the streaming company’s battle with Apple is far from over.

One component of the increasingly multifaceted confrontation concerns Apple’s compliance with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). In brief, the law seemingly set the stage for Spotify to explore alternative app stores, direct in-app communications regarding promotions, and more.

But Apple, which revealed its compliance plans in January, has attracted continued scrutiny from Spotify over how it’s complying with the measure – including with the €0.50-per-download fee in place for select developers.

“For very high volume iOS apps distributed from the App Store and/or an alternative app marketplace,” Apple explained, “developers will pay €0.50 for each first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold. Under the new business terms for EU apps, Apple estimates that less than 1% of developers would pay a Core Technology Fee on their EU apps.”

Needless to say, that small overall portion of developers includes Spotify, which has urged regulatory action against the per-install fee. Meanwhile, Spotify last month claimed that Apple was blocking its App Store updates following the $1.95 billion fine, before promptly coming out in favor of the intensifying Justice Department antitrust complaint against the company.

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