Apple is facing a Dutch antitrust investigation into whether it favors its own apps over those of rival developers. It looks likely to have an initial focus on Apple Music and Apple News, but will probably extend to other app categories, and may also include Google’s Play store.
Spotify has already filed a complaint with the European Commission, alleging that Apple Music has an unfair advantage over Spotify, and today’s report references that and says that ‘apps for news media’ is another focus …
The Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) will examine whether Apple abuses a dominant market position “by giving preferential treatment to its own apps,” it said in a statement on Thursday. The probe will initially focus on Apple’s App Store, where regulators have received the most detailed complaints, and Dutch apps for news media, but is also calling on app providers to flag if they have any problems with Google’s Play Store.
The antitrust probe adds to a growing backlash against the tolls Apple and Google charge to developers using their app stores. The EU’s powerful antitrust arm is weighing Spotify’s complaint targeting Apple. This builds on concerns that technology platforms control the online ecosystem and may rig the game to their own advantage.
The ACM today published a report on mobile app stores, in which it said its initial exploration of the issue had raised a significant number of concerns.
Within the iOS-ecosystem, there are no realistic alternatives for apps or the App Store, so the App Store forms a bottleneck within the iOS-ecosystem […] App providers experience problems with the interoperability with the operating system of with functionalities on the phone, like with Siri or the NFC-chip. Other app providers have indicated that even though their apps are given full access to the app stores they have a strong disadvantage compared with proprietary Apple and Google apps, due to the pre-installation of their own apps.
Spotify’s complaint concerned the fact that it would have to pay a commission if it offered in-app subscriptions, and the ACM says that the 30% (first year) or 15% (renewal) commissions may result in ‘distortion of competition.’
Apple has faced music monopoly scrutiny in Europe for some time. Below, Phil Schiller throws off media questions about the dominance of the iTunes at the launch of iPhone in 2007.
The ACM said that the number of concerns raised were sufficient to now launch a formal investigation into whether or not Apple is acting illegally.