Joint letter from Spotify Pens calls Apple ‘harmful’ and ‘anti-competitive’, claims App Store is killing business

Spotify and eight companies and associations wrote a letter to the executive vice-president of the European Commission calling Apple a harmful, anti-competitive and monopolistic company that must be regulated through “urgent action”.

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The letter, signed by the CEOs and heads of Basecamp, Deezer, Proton, Schibsted, Spotify, the European Publishers Council (EPC), France Digitale and News Media Europe, was sent to the EU’s Margrethe Vestager. The letter calls on the EU to take regulatory action and close an investigation launched by Spotify against Apple’s app distribution practices.

The group claims that Apple’s App Store has been holding back their business and constantly hampering their growth due to the platform’s rules and its “capricious changes to terms and conditions.”

For years, Apple has imposed unfair restrictions on our businesses. These restrictions hold back our development and harm European consumers. They include tying the App Store to Apple’s own payment system, with its exorbitant commissions for app developers; creating artificial barriers that prevent our companies from communicating freely with our customers; restrictions on the developer’s access to the data of its own users; and capricious changes to terms and conditions. Apple benefits from a monopoly position over its mobile ecosystem and extracts exorbitant rents from app developers who have no choice but to stay in the App Store to reach European consumers.

“The time has come for urgent EU action to stop Apple’s abusive behavior,” the letter said, citing the recently adopted Digital Markets Act (DMA) and calling for its swift implementation. “The EU has an opportunity to take the lead, but it must act quickly because every day is a loss for innovation and for the benefit of European consumers,” it continued.

In April 2021, the EU published the Commission’s statement of objections against Apple, outlining its findings following an investigation into the unfair practices of the ‌App Store‌. In a statement, the EU said Apple had “abused its dominant position to distribute music streaming apps through its ‌App Store‌” and objected to “the mandatory use of Apple’s own in-app purchase mechanism imposed on music streaming app developers to distribute their apps .” The group of companies now claims that these alleged irregularities have been experienced by “countless other app providers”, not just music streaming apps.

We are therefore calling for a speedy decision in the competition case against Apple for its illegal, anti-competitive behavior involving music streaming services. Many of the anti-competitive behaviors described in the Commission’s Statement of Objections against Apple are felt not only by music streaming services but also by countless other app providers seeking to offer goods and services through the iOS App Store. That statement of objections is almost two years old, and the abuses and harm to consumers will continue until a remedy is implemented. In addition to the specific case of the App Store, EU authorities urgently need to consider Apple’s abusive behavior in other areas, such as publishing, web software, communications and markets.

Apple has been repeatedly accused of unfair and anti-competitive business practices in its ‌App Store‌, and Spotify is one of the loudest critics. In October, Spotify issued a press release accusing Apple of undermining “the ability of Spotify and other developers to deliver a seamless user experience” and said the restrictions “harm both creators and consumers alike.”

While Spotify has been vocal about its disapproval of Apple’s ‌App Store‌, the streaming music service has ignored widespread requests to add HomePod support to its app, despite many of its competitors doing so. As a result, some Spotify users have switched to other platforms, such as Apple Music. In an independent blog post on its website this week, Spotify said: “Apple has been enabled by a lack of decisive action by regulators, who continue to be hesitant, even in the face of overwhelming support.”

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