Spotify and Apple Again Clash Over App Store Rules and Fees

Spotify has not been able to get Apple to approve an EU app update that added information on subscription pricing and links to the Spotify website, and it turns out that's because Spotify has not agreed to the terms of Apple's Music Streaming Services Entitlement.

Apple vs Spotify feature2
A recent antitrust ruling from the European Commission fined Apple nearly $2 billion and mandated that Apple "remove anti-steering provisions" for music apps in the European Economic Area (EEA). As a result, Apple updated its App Store rules with a Music Streaming Services Entitlement that allows music apps in the EEA to inform users of other ways to purchase digital music content or services and to add website links for purchasing digital music subscriptions.

That might sound like a win for apps like Spotify, but Apple requires developers who use the entitlement to pay a 27 percent fee (reduced for subscriptions older than one year and for small businesses) on all website purchases referred by Apple. So if Spotify puts a link in its app and a user clicks it and subscribes, Spotify would owe Apple a 27 percent commission (three percent less than the App Store purchase fee).

Spotify does not currently pay Apple any money, and it does not want to. Directly after the European Commission's ruling, Spotify on March 5 submitted an EU app update that had information on subscription pricing and links to its websites for customers to make purchases. This was prior to when Apple had announced its entitlement plan.

Apple ignored Spotify's app update, and Spotify complained on March 14 that Apple had not "acknowledged or responded" to its ‌App Store‌ submission. Spotify at the time called on the European Commission to force Apple to approve its app update.

Apple kept ignoring Spotify's submission, until today, when Spotify submitted a new version of its app. Spotify said on X (formerly Twitter) that the update has no links and includes just the "bare minimum" on pricing and a mention that subscriptions can be purchased from Spotify, which it claims is acceptable under the European Commission's ruling.

Spotify left out a small detail, though. It turns out that Spotify did not request a Music Streaming Services Entitlement and did not agree to Apple's new terms for the entitlement. The ‌App Store‌ Review Team sent Spotify a letter (via AppleInsider) that says the entitlement is required even though there is no link because Spotify's submission has a call to action to purchase a Spotify subscription on its website.

We are reaching out to let you know about new information regarding your app, Spotify - Music and Podcasts, version 8.9.33.

As you may be aware, Apple created a new Music Streaming Services Entitlement (EEA) for iOS and iPadOS music streaming apps offered in EEA storefronts. The entitlement allows music streaming apps to use buttons, external links, or other calls to action to direct customers to a purchase mechanism on a website owned or controlled by the developer. You must accept its terms before adding any of these capabilities to your app. Please find more information about the entitlement here.

We note that your current submission includes a call to action to purchase a Spotify subscription on your website. As such, you must accept the terms of the Music Streaming Services Entitlement (EEA) and include the entitlement profile in your app for submission. To be clear, this entitlement is required even if your app does not include an external link (nor does it require that you offer an external link). We will, however, approve version 8.9.33 after you accept the terms of the Music Streaming Services Entitlement (EEA) and resubmit it for review.

If you have any questions about this information, please reply to this message to let us know.

Apple says that if Spotify agrees to the terms of the Music Streaming Services Entitlement, it will approve the latest Spotify app update. Without a link to the Spotify website, Spotify would presumably not have to pay Apple a commission because there would be no way for Apple to track clicks from its app to Spotify, but there may be some other part of the entitlement that Spotify is reluctant to agree to.

Apple does not plan to let Spotify include a link to the Spotify website without paying the required 27 percent fee, but adding subscription pricing information without a link does seem to be permitted per the language of Apple's letter to Spotify. In a statement to MacRumors, Spotify said that Apple is defying the EC's ruling.

Apple has once again defied the European Commission’s decision, rejecting our update for attempting to communicate with customers about our prices unless we pay Apple a new tax. Their disregard for consumers and developers is matched only by their disdain for the law.

Spotify has confirmed that it does not plan to opt in to Apple's EU ‌App Store‌ business terms, which are separate from the Music Streaming Services Entitlement and are part of the changes that Apple implemented as required by the Digital Markets Act.

Because Spotify does not want to agree to the EU ‌App Store‌ business terms, it is limited on the features that it can add to its app in the EU. To offer the Spotify app directly from its website in the EU, Spotify would need to agree to the terms and would have to pay a 0.50 euro Core Technology Fee for users that download the app.

Spotify does not let customers sign up for a Spotify subscription in the app as of right now, so it does not have to pay anything. Web-based distribution and linking out to the Spotify website both have associated fees, and Spotify is aiming for a solution where it does not have to pay anything. Though Spotify has a clear path to get its app update approved, the company believes that Apple is breaking European law by charging the 27 percent fee for links and it calls on the European Commission to "enforce its decision."

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Top Rated Comments

Apple_Robert Avatar
5 weeks ago
Spotify wants to profit off of Apples services backend and customer base without paying. The real world doesn't work that way and Spotify needs to either pay or remove themselves from Apple services.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
agwin27 Avatar
5 weeks ago

I don't see why Spotify has to pay anything to Apple here. I pay Apple for my device and my services. Spotify doesn't have to pay Verizon every time I stream a song on an iPhone. I pay Verizon. Honestly why does Apple have this special status of being able to triple dip and demand money for everything that touches iOS?
If Apple designed and built a shopping mall, should vendors expect to be able to set up shop in that mall rent-free? Despite Apple being on the hook for maintenance, security, insurance, etc?
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
neilpmas Avatar
5 weeks ago
I don’t get Apple’s plan with this. It’s like they want to get more fines.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
agwin27 Avatar
5 weeks ago
Spotify is like that impossible-to-please ex-girlfriend that keeps texting you “AND ANOTHER THING” long after you’ve cut things off due to irreconcilable differences.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mikethebigo Avatar
5 weeks ago

Spotify wants to profit off of Apples services backend and customer base without paying. The real world doesn't work that way and Spotify needs to either pay or remove themselves from Apple services.
I don't see why Spotify has to pay anything to Apple here. I pay Apple for my device and my services. Spotify doesn't have to pay Verizon every time I stream a song on an iPhone. I pay Verizon. Honestly why does Apple have this special status of being able to triple dip and demand money for everything that touches iOS? They think devs owe them, users owe them, they want to build out advertising revenue, they want people like Google to pay them to be on the platform... they just want to be in every single entity on Earth's pockets and it's gross. They think they deserve it but always conveniently forget the iPhone would be nothing without the rest of the world (the internet/infrastructure, the third party apps on the platform, etc).
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mrkevinfinnerty Avatar
5 weeks ago

If Apple designed and built a shopping mall, should vendors expect to be able to set up shop in that mall rent-free? Despite Apple being on the hook for maintenance, security, insurance, etc?
If Apple trades in the EU should they just pay their taxes instead of fighting in court for years?
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)