March 13, 2019
Music streaming service Spotify has declared war on Apple over alleged discriminatory treatment of its app and commercial terms.
In a blog post CEO Daniel Ek announced Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission. He claims “Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience – essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”
The main issue seems to be the commercial terms Apple offers Spotify, specifically taking a cut of the fees people pay for its premium services. While this is Apple’s prerogative, that behaviour is complicated by the fact that Apple operates its own competing streaming service, Apple Music, and allegedly punishes Spotify if it attempts to use an alternative payment system.
“We aren’t seeking special treatment,” wrote Ek. “We simply want the same treatment as numerous other apps on the App Store, like Uber or Deliveroo, who aren’t subject to the Apple tax and therefore don’t have the same restrictions. What we are asking for is the following:
First, apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions—including Apple Music.
Second, consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple’s.
Finally, app stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers.”
Spotify’s timing is pretty good, since regulatory and political sentiment is quite hostile to US tech giants at the moment and Apple is expected to launch a TV streaming service later this month. Spotify has created an emotively-named website – timetoplayfair.com – to further detail its case. Apple will presumably insist rules are rules, but the case against it seems reasonably strong it’s quite possible it may eventually back down on this one.
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