Apple’s planned rebranding and relaunch of the Beats streaming music service has not had the easiest of rides. The launch, initially planned for earlier this year, was delayed by the departure of key execs and difficulties integrating Beats and Apple technologies. A planned $5/month price-point had to be abandoned in favor of an attempt at $7.99/month when music labels wouldn’t play ball, and that too now looks increasingly unlikely even though Google Play offered initial All Access Signups for a $7.99 locked in. And any plans to offer artist exclusives as an inducement now face competition from newly-relaunched Tidal.

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any tougher, London’s Financial Times reports that the European Commission is considering launching an antitrust investigation into the service, even before it launches. The Commission has contacted several music labels to ask what deals have been done with Apple, says the FT.

The commission, which also has contacted Apple’s music-streaming rivals, is said to be concerned that the company will use its size, relationships and influence to persuade labels to abandon free, ad-supported services such as Spotify, which depend on licenses with music companies for their catalogues.

The newspaper implies that the investigation may have been triggered by a formal complaint by an existing streaming music service … 

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The Commission has sent questionnaires to several music labels, asking them for details of the agreements reached with Apple.

Such questionnaires are often triggered by a formal complaint to the Commission, the EU’s top competition authority.

As the FT notes, the case bears similarity to the ebooks case, where Apple was found guilty of anti-competitive practices. Should a formal investigation follow in this case, with the same result, the European Commission has the power to force Apple to change its business practices if it wants to launch the service in Europe.

It’s believed that Apple plans to launch its streaming music at WWDC as part of an iOS 8.4 update that will see it integrated into the existing Music app, with access on Macs via an iTunes update.

Apple is not the only tech giant to face the possibility of antitrust proceedings in Europe. It was reported yesterday that the Commission is preparing an antitrust case against Google for a number of its business practices.

Photo: Xinhua

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