Spotify lodges European Union complaint against Apple over unfair music competition

Isaac Cain
March 14, 2019

The complaint asserts that, while the companies initially had a "symbiotic relationship" in 2009, once Apple became a direct competitor with its own Apple Music service, "their restrictions (on Spotify's app) started to become more frequent and extreme", Horacio Gutierrez, general counsel of Spotify told the Financial Times.

Apple should be probed by the European Union's antitrust agency over how it allegedly squeezes rival music streaming services, Spotify Technology SA said, escalating a debate over how Apple takes a cut of sales on its App Store.

However, Ek said he has now been forced to officially lodge a complaint with the European commission after Apple introduced what he claimed were wider anti-competitive practices that has made it "both player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers". In 2016, Spotify argued that Apple was refusing to approve an update to its iOS app as a way to kneecap Spotify at the same time that Apple was ramping up its rival service, Apple Music.

Spotify's beef with Apple centers on a 30 percent tax it and other digital services have to pay whenever they use Apple's "in-app" payment system to process user purchases such as upgrading subscriptions.

Spotify opted not to use the in-app purchase (IAP) system Apple provided, and the company alleges that the decision led to second-class treatment from Apple.

Yet, he said, "if we choose not to use Apple's payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify".

For example, they won't let us market to our customers who use our app on iOS.

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"All of these actions by Apple make it untenable for us as a competitor, and for us as a player in the global competitive ecosystem, to stand by and not take action", said Mr Gutierrez.

Spotify wasn't looking for special treatment, but "we should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions - including Apple Music", Ek said.

Spotify then ceased use of Apple's IAP system, meaning Spotify customers could only upgrade to the fee-based package indirectly, such as on a laptop.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

He complained that Apple "routinely" blocks Spotify's upgrades and being locked out of services including Siri and Apple Watch. Spotify is claiming anti-competitive and discriminatory behavior on Apple's part with regards to the operation of the App Store.

Apple controls what's allowed into its app store and how those programs can interact with its users, but it also competes with streaming music providers directly via Apple Music. We want the same fair rules for companies young and old, large and small. That's what competition on the merits is all about.

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