Apple’s $1.9B EU fine for app store barriers could foreshadow gaming changes

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The European Commission fined Apple $1.9 billion (1.8 billion euros) today for putting barriers in place for music apps in its app store.

The fine validated antitrust concerns raised by Spotify about how Apple is a gatekeeper in the market. Regarding music, the EU said, “In particular, the commission found that Apple applied restrictions on app developers preventing them from informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app (‘anti-steering provisions’). This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

Apple posted a vigorous denial of behaving in any anticompetitive way, and the company said the EU didn’t have any proof of harm to companies using the app store. The EU’s Digital Markets Act is about to go into effect and it will curtail the ability of “gatekeeper platforms” like Apple and Google to restrain developers from promoting off-store alternative shops for buying in-app goods.

“Today, the European Commission announced a decision claiming the App Store has been a barrier to competition in the digital music market. The decision was reached despite the Commission’s failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm, and ignores the realities of a market that is thriving, competitive, and growing fast,” Apple said in its lengthy reply.

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Much of Apple’s reply criticizes Spotify, which Apple says has moved into a commanding lead in the EU in music market share without paying Apple anything. Apple noted Spotify met with the EU about 65 times before the fine was issued. Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, fired back with this response.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, tweeted, “EU finding of lawbreaking by Apple. In America, the issue is coming before the District Court in Epic v Apple as Epic challenges Apple’s malicious compliance with the court’s anti-steering injunction.” Sweeney lost an antitrust lawsuit against Apple but he scored one point as the U.S. District Court has ordered Apple not to silence developers about lower prices at alternative stores.

And Sweeney also said, “Denial is a river that flows through Cupertino! Apple’s bitter griping simply describes their historic, pre-monopoly relationship with app makers: the device provides great APIs, and apps provide great features to attract users. Everyone profits together.”

The wheels of antitrust grind slowly, as the EU opened its investigation of Apple in 2020.

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