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EU hits Apple with $2bn antitrust fine following Spotify complaint

The EU has issued Apple with an antitrust fine of over 1.8 billion euros ($1.95bn) following a complaint by music streaming service Spotify.

The US tech giant immediately vowed on Monday to appeal the penalty. It was the first-ever antitrust fine slapped on the company by Brussels.

The European Commission announced that the charge was triggered after Spotify complained in 2019 that Apple had prevented music-streaming services from informing users of payment options outside its App Store.

The European Union’s competition regulator said Apple’s restrictions constituted unfair trading conditions. That is a relatively novel argument in an antitrust case, but it was also used by the Dutch antitrust agency in a decision against Apple in 2021 in a case brought by dating app providers.

“For a decade, Apple abused its dominant position in the market for the distribution of music streaming apps through the App Store,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“They did so by restricting developers from informing consumers about alternative, cheaper music services available outside of the Apple ecosystem. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

‘No evidence’

Apple criticised the EU decision, saying it would challenge it in court.

“The decision was reached despite the Commission’s failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm, and ignores the realities of a market that is thriving, competitive, and growing fast,” the company said in a statement.

“The primary advocate for this decision — and the biggest beneficiary — is Spotify, a company based in Stockholm, Sweden. Spotify has the largest music streaming app in the world, and has met with the European Commission more than 65 times during this investigation,” it said.

It said the Swedish company pays no commission to Apple as it sells its subscriptions on its website and not on Apple’s App Store.

Crackdown

The EU has sought to crack down on Big Tech companies, handing out a series of multibillion-dollar fines for Google and charging Meta with distorting the online classified ad market.

Apple’s fine is about a quarter of the 8.25 billion euro ($8.95bn) the EU regulator fined Google in three cases in the last decade.

Vestager also has opened a separate antitrust investigation into Apple’s mobile payments service. Apple is seeking to settle that by offering to open up its tap-and-go systems to rivals.

The order for Apple to remove its App Store restrictions echoes a requirement under new EU rules known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which Apple is required to comply with by March 7.

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