Dutch Antitrust Watchdog Nears Draft Decision in App Store Probe

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets, or ACM for short, is reportedly nearing a draft decision in its investigation into Apple over rules that require developers to use its in-app payment system, which charges commissions of between 15% and 30%.

app store blue banner
According to Reuters, the ACM revealed that the draft decision was nearing completion in letters sent this month to some of the developers involved in the case. However, the letter didn't divulge how the ACM would rule, nor when its decision will be finalized.

According to the letter, the regulator is also scrutinizing Apple rules that bar developers from telling users about cheaper payment alternatives outside of the app.

"It's not just that Apple is inflicting economic harm," said David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of software firm Basecamp and one of those who received the letter. "Apple is essentially giving us a gag order."

The development comes almost two years since ACM began investigating the App Store to determine whether Apple abuses its position by, for example, giving preferential treatment to its own apps.

ACM launched the investigation after completing a market study that explored the influence of app stores. For numerous apps, the watchdog found that no realistic alternatives to the ‌‌App Store‌‌ and Play Store exist, potentially giving Apple and Google the opportunity to set unfair conditions.

Apple is facing several antitrust investigations into its ‌App Store‌ practices, including a legal dispute with Epic Games over in-app transaction fees and an ongoing probe by the European Commission, prompted by a complaint by Spotify that accused Apple of acting as "both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers."

If the ACM issues a decision soon, Reuters speculates that it could become the first antitrust authority to rule on Apple's app-store payment policies which would set a precedent that could influence other ongoing investigations.

A separate ongoing ACM probe is investigating contactless platforms on smartphones and the access that payment apps have to NFC capabilities.

According to the ACM, the software that's on some smartphones "only allows the developer's own payment app to connect to NFC communication," preventing third-party payment apps from also being able to use NFC capabilities.

On iPhones, Apple Pay is the only payment method able to use NFC. Apple does not permit other financial apps to use NFC, which has resulted in disputes with some banks and financial institutions.

Top Rated Comments

deevey Avatar
6 weeks ago

This one seems quite reasonable. Not allowing other payment options is one thing, not being able to promote "out of App Store" possibilities another.
Alright, say if you have a shop that sells Apple products.

By that rationale, Apple should be able to advertise in YOUR shop that customers can buy those products cheaper from them directly and you must let them do that ?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
subi257 Avatar
6 weeks ago

Alright, say if you have a shop that sells Apple products.

By that rationale, Apple should be able to advertise in YOUR shop that customers can buy those products cheaper from them directly and you must let them do that ?
Exactly, You as a store owner would tell Apple get the F out! That applies to any and all sales, I have a supermarket and on the shelves above every item, I will have a sign telling you where to get it for a lower cost.

It costs Apple....or Google, or whatever app store money to host the apps. Server space, utilities to run servers, engineers to maintain them, etc. Why should I give that away for free as a for profit business. I could be wrong, but if it was not for Apple and the app store in he first place, more than half of these developers would not exist.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
6 weeks ago

Alright, say if you have a shop that sells Apple products.

By that rationale, Apple should be able to advertise in YOUR shop that customers can buy those products cheaper from them directly and you must let them do that ?
That’s redundant because Apple will never be the cheaper option. Also there isn’t even an option to go buy elsewhere with the AppStore being the only source. You can buy a game for your Nintendo at Walmart but you can also decide to buy it more expensive on the Nintendo Online Store. Apple doesn’t even give you the option


Exactly, You as a store owner would tell Apple get the F out! That applies to any and all sales, I have a supermarket and on the shelves above every item, I will have a sign telling you where to get it for a lower cost.

It costs Apple....or Google, or whatever app store money to host the apps. Server space, utilities to run servers, engineers to maintain them, etc. Why should I give that away for free as a for profit business. I could be wrong, but if it was not for Apple and the app store in he first place, more than half of these developers would not exist.
I thought that’s what the 99 dollars per year is already for?


If Apple cannot generate revenue from the App Store then what is the business motivation for having it? Is the App Store to be regulated into a free service for developers that Apple is required to provide and lose money on? Apple gets nothing for its efforts? It certainly looks that way. You know it wasn’t that long ago that developers had to fend for themselves and do all of the marketing and rely on word of mouth to get traction for their softwares. How many small time developers went belly up because they didn’t have the resources to promote their products?
Yes and no. Apple needs developers to develop apps just as much as the devs need Apple. Without apps, iOS would have become another Windows Mobile and the iPhone less interesting. Imagine if FB stopped offering FB, Instagram and WhatsApp on iOs
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wildkraut Avatar
6 weeks ago

Apple has been a closed ecosystem from day one. As a developer if you didn't see that up front you are either blind or nieve....OR...just plain greedy. That closed app store has made a lot of money for a lot of developers. I can't even begin to count how many .99 apps I bought...knowing that it's most like junk, or ehh, but an .99 who cares. If globally, 10,000 people did the same and the developers get .666 on the dollar that means they just made $6,666.00
Sounds like you love to pay 0.99 for junk!
Mind if i sell you a bit of garbage out of our trash can?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Stratus Fear Avatar
6 weeks ago

This one seems quite reasonable. Not allowing other payment options is one thing, not being able to promote "out of App Store" possibilities another.
Normally I'm on Apple's side on a lot of their platform decisions, but I agree, this probably isn't unreasonable. In my opinion, if Apple really wants developers to use IAP, even for services Apple largely is not providing in a third-party app, e.g. media content delivery related transactions, like ebooks and music/video subscriptions, I don't see why they can't compromise on their 30% for certain categories such as those and make the fee similar to what credit card processors charge (something like 1%-3%). They'd still have the massive 30% cut from traditional IAP like DLCs for game apps and other stuff where content delivery is solely from the App Store. Seems like that could be a compromise that makes most people happy.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonblatho Avatar
6 weeks ago

I know exactly what you said. If I were Apple, I wouldn't kow-tow to this directly. What Apple does, however, is anybody's guess.
If you can’t see that the hammer of regulation is coming eventually if Apple keeps marching down this path, I can’t help you.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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