The EU says Apple violated antitrust law in the Spotify case, but the final ruling is yet to come

The EU has updated its antitrust case against Apple and its control over iOS music streaming services with potentially good news for plaintiff Spotify.

The European Commission, the EU body investigating the charges, says Apple violated antitrust laws by stopping rival music companies like Spotify from advertising where and how users could subscribe to their apps. This update is not a final ruling on the case, and it is now up to Apple to marshal a defense and prove the accusations wrong.

Spotify first filed a complaint against Apple in 2019, and the European Commission opened an investigation in 2020. The Commission issued an initial “statement of objections” against Apple in 2021, outlining potential violations of anti-trust law. trust. The Commission focused on two issues: that Apple forced developers to use its own in-app payments system for which it collects a fee (the “IAP obligation”), and that Apple stopped developers from advertising alternative ways to subscribe to pay with their apps (the “anti-directive obligations”).

The Commission has updated this statement of objections today. He has dropped the first charge, saying he “no longer has any position on the legality of the IAP obligation,” and is focusing on the second. The Commission has also strengthened the language surrounding this charge, declaring a “preliminary view” that Apple’s anti-steering obligations constitute “unfair trading conditions in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’).

For a while, Apple didn’t even allow rival streaming services like Spotify to include links in the company’s apps to its own subscription signatures. (Apple loosened this restriction in March 2022 to shut down an antitrust investigation in Japan.)

If found guilty, Apple could be fined up to $39.4 billion

Apple will now be able to respond to the EU charges. If found guilty the company will be fined up to 10 percent of its annual global turnover. A fine of up to $39.4 billion dollars would be based on Apple’s 2022 revenue of $394.33 billion dollars. We’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

In a statement from Spotify, the company’s general counsel, Eve Konstan, said: “Today, the European Commission sent a clear message that Apple’s anti-competitive behavior and unfair practices have harmed disadvantaged consumers and developers for a long time. We ask the Commission to reach a swift decision in this case to protect consumers and restore fair competition on the iOS platform.”

Last month, Spotify and other European companies urged the Commission to speed up its investigation and take “swift and decisive action” against Apple. (Although the commission notes in its own announcement today that there is no legal deadline for ending an antitrust investigation.”) If it is delayed much longer, the case is likely to trigger a whole new series obligations Apple and others will have to comply with under the EU’s upcoming Digital Markets Act, or DMA.These will force Apple to allow third-party app stores and app sideloading on iOS for the first time.

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