Spotify announced Wednesday that it’s filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in Europe, marking a significant escalation in the war between the two companies.
The music-streaming service has long been frustrated about the way Apple handles subscriptions in its App Store. In its official complaint, filed with the European Commission, Spotify claims the iPhone maker’s App Store rules “limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience.”
Spotify founder Daniel Ek, in a blog post announcing the antitrust complaint, accused Apple of “essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”
Apple demands a 30 percent cut of all subscriptions paid directly through apps on the App Store, a fee Spotify says would make its offering unsustainable.
Spotify competes directly with Apple’s own Apple Music, and the rival services are the leaders in the music streaming market.
“They continue to give themselves an unfair advantage at every turn,” Ek said in the blog post.
The accusation that Apple is using its dominant position in the market to unfairly boost its own products at the expense of others is likely to attract attention in Washington, where lawmakers — particularly Democrats — have been calling for the break up of Big Tech.
“Companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said last week, later confirming she includes Apple in this category.
Ek says Spotify has failed in its efforts to resolve the issues in direct talks with Apple and has been forced to go down the legal path.
Spotify’s complaint hinges on the fact that Apple owns the iOS platform as well as the App Store, giving it an unfair advantage over its competitors.
The popular music streaming platform isn't the only app developer to complain about Apple's pricing policy. Last year games developer Epic declared its fee was “disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform.”
Spotify has chosen to take subscription payments outside the App Store, as Ek says paying the 30 percent “tax” would drive its price above that of Apple Music. As a result of doing so, Ek says Apple has applied “a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify,” including limiting its ability to communicate directly with its customers.
Spotify also alleges that Apple prevented it from launching an Apple Watch app, blocked the company from building for Apple’s smart HomePod speaker, and locked the streaming service out of podcast APIs after it announced its recent acquisitions of podcasting startups Gimlet and Anchor.
In conjunction with its official filing, Spotify has launched a PR campaign labeled “Time to Play Fair,” which includes a website that details what it claims are Apple’s unfair practices.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing. The European Commission said it had received the complaint told the Wall Street Journal it is “assessing [it] under our standard procedures.”
Cover: This Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, photo shows music streaming apps clockwise from top left, Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora and Google on an iPhone in New York. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)