EU to press charges against Apple over ‘unfair’ App Store rules

The European Commission is set to formally accuse Apple of distorting competition in music streaming by preventing rival services on its App Store from informing users of other, often cheaper, ways of purchasing their services.

The EU is set to accuse Apple of placing restrictions on other music streaming services but not on its own, forcing rivals into a disadvantageous position, according to people with direct knowledge of the probe.

This will be the first time the EU has brought formal charges against Apple, after opening up a series of antitrust probes into the company’s business practices. 

The charges are set to reignite tensions between Brussels and Silicon Valley at a time when EU regulators are reforming the rules of the internet in Europe for the first time in two decades.

The official charges come roughly a year after music streaming app Spotify lodged an official complaint against Apple in March 2019 alleging that the Silicon Valley company behaved unlawfully and abused its dominance on the App Store to favour its own music streaming services.

The commission stopped asking Spotify questions in recent days, which is usually an indication that officials are ready to move forward with the case. But it could still be months before formal charges are brought against Apple, and the case could still be shelved.

Under current rules, apps that provide paid digital content on the App Store must use the company’s own in-app payment system, leading to charges of 30 per cent on subscription fees.

As a result some Apple rivals have either disabled their in-app payment option on the App Store, hiked prices or passed costs to their customers. Regulators believe that Apple practices may lead to consumer harm by preventing them from accessing greater choice and lower prices.

The European Commission declined to comment. Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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