EU Announces Investigations into App Store In-App Purchase Rules and Apple Pay

The European Commission today said it has opened two formal antitrust investigations into Apple's App Store and Apple Pay mobile payment system.

European Commisssion
The first investigation will assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the ‌App Store‌ violate EU competition rules.

It will focus in particular on the mandatory use of Apple's own in-app purchases system and restrictions on the ability of developers to inform iPhone and iPad users of alternative cheaper purchasing possibilities outside of apps.

The investigation follows up on separate complaints by Spotify and ebook distributor Kobo on the impact of the ‌App Store‌ rules on competition in music streaming and e-books/audiobooks.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Mobile applications have fundamentally changed the way we access content. Apple sets the rules for the distribution of apps to users of iPhones and iPads. It appears that Apple obtained a 'gatekeeper' role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple's popular devices. We need to ensure that Apple's rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books. I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple's App Store rules and their compliance with EU competition rules."

The second investigation into ‌Apple Pay‌ follows a preliminary EC investigation that flagged concerns regarding Apple's terms, conditions, and other measures related to the use of ‌Apple Pay‌ that may distort competition and reduce choice and innovation. In addition, the EC notes that ‌Apple Pay‌ is the only mobile payment solution that can access the NFC "tap and go" technology embedded in Apple's devices for in-store payments.

Responding to the announcements, a spokesperson for Apple gave the following statement:

"We developed the App Store with two goals in mind: that it be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs and developers.

"We're deeply proud of the countless developers who've innovated and found success through our platform. And as we've grown together, we've continued to deliver innovative new services — like Apple Pay — that provide the very best customer experience while meeting industry-leading standards for privacy and security.

"It's disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don't want to play by the same rules as everyone else. We don’t think that's right — we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed."

There is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end, and the duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a range of factors that can take years to work through, but the EC said it will carry out its investigations "as a matter of priority."

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Top Rated Comments

TiggrToo Avatar
53 months ago
As much as I love my Apple gear, I can't say I blame the EU for this. It does feel that Apple do take advantage of this virtual monopoly, especially when it comes to charging 3rd party services the same 30% as it does for taking a cut of app costs.

Not so sure on the Apple Pay move though: if Apple should be forced to open the secure enclave used for Pay to 3rd parties then they might as well stop securing it.

Granted there may be ways to create multiple enclaves - perhaps they could charge each vendor an enclave cost (and something not cheap either) bit then that would probably preclude older devices and the EU still wouldn't be happy...
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Scepticalscribe Avatar
53 months ago
I must say that I am rather pleased to see the EU taking action on these issues, especially the first one.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TiggrToo Avatar
53 months ago

Everyone forgets without apple there wouldn’t be a App Store, so Apple creates a business then is told how to tune their business, i guess that’s why people move to america
That's totally irrelevant. A monopoly is a monopoly and the EU has every right to look into this. In fact, they'd be remiss not to.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ervingv Avatar
53 months ago

Everyone forgets without apple there wouldn’t be a App Store, so Apple creates a business then is told how to tune their business, i guess that’s why people move to america
lol and without developers creating apps, there wouldn’t be a successful App Store. People forget, that back in the early App Store days, Kindle was able to promote their store within the app before Apple decided to change the rules due to their release of iBooks.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ruka.snow Avatar
53 months ago

Everyone forgets without apple there wouldn’t be a App Store, so Apple creates a business then is told how to tune their business, i guess that’s why people move to america
And without all the developers there wouldn't be an App Store. It is not a one sided arrangement and every business needs oversight and rules to follow. If we don't have oversight we end up with fewer and fewer businesses(very un-American) and no way for new starts to even remotely take off. If it wasn't for the EU the whole internet would be built for IE only as that would be the only browser shipped by Microsoft.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ericwn Avatar
53 months ago
Everyone forgets without apple there wouldn’t be a App Store, so Apple creates a business then is told how to tune their business, i guess that’s why people move to america
Businesses have to comply with the law pretty much anywhere, even in America.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)