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Spotify Files Antitrust Complaint Against 'Apple Tax' In EU

Spotify alleges that Apple uses its ownership over iOS and the App Store to impose an 'Apple tax' that stifles competition.

by Rob Dozier
Mar 13 2019, 7:37pm

Image: Shutterstock

Spotify, the Swedish-owned music streaming company, has filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission alleging that Apple unfairly disadvantages competitors that rely on its platforms to reach more than one billion iOS users.

The announcement was made this morning in a blog post by Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek.

In the post, Ek alleges that Apple used its ownership of the iOS platform and the App Store to gain a competitive edge against Spotify. Apple operates a competing subscription-based music streaming service, Apple Music.

Ek notes that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of purchases made with Apple’s payment system—for example, if a user upgrades their Spotify account from free to premium—and prevents Spotify from linking out to other ways to pay. Paying that “Apple tax,” as Ek characterized it, would force Spotify to raise the cost of its subscriptions, putting it above the cost of Apple Music. Apps like Uber and Deliveroo do not have to pay this fee, Ek claims.

“Over time, this has included locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services such as Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch,” Ek wrote.

Apple spokespeople were not immediately available to comment.

A representative for the European Commission, which enforces antitrust laws in the EU, told The Wall Street Journal that it had received Spotify’s complaint which it is “assessing under our standard procedures.”

In the past, the Commission, has proved more than willing to hold big tech to account when it comes to antitrust complaints.

In 2017 Google faced a record $2.7 billion USD in fines for violating antitrust laws by prioritizing its services in search results over competitors. And then in 2018 Google again was fined roughly $5 billion for pressuring phone manufacturers to use its services if they were using Android’s free, open source operating system.

Spotify launched a PR campaign in addition to the complaint to the EU. It built a website which lays out the company’s history of butting heads with Apple, calling the initiative Time to Play Fair. In an animated video, the company argues that competition between companies benefits consumers.

“Let me be clear that this is not a Spotify-versus-Apple issue,” wrote Ek. “We want the same fair rules for companies young and old, large and small.”

Time to Play Fair’s FAQ states that Spotify filed its complaint in the EU because its headquarters are in Sweden, but the company is open to taking legal action in other jurisdictions.

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