European Commission charges Apple with antitrust violations in music streaming market
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European Commission charges Apple with antitrust violations in music streaming market

The European Commission on Friday announced it has charged Apple and the App Store with antitrust violations in the music-streaming market.

In its Statement of Objections, the commission states the company “distorted competition in the music streaming market as it abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps.” The charge concerns mandatory use of an in-app purchase mechanism that Apple imposes on other music-streaming developers in order to distribute their apps via the App Store. Through this mandatory mechanism, Apple charges competing music-streaming developers a 30 percent commission fee on all subscriptions they receive.

The commission also alleges that Apple’s “anti-steering provisions” on competing developers prevent them from informing Apple users of their products. The result, the commission states, is that Apple users are paying “significantly higher prices for their music subscription services or they are prevented from buying certain subscriptions directly in their apps.”

The charges, if proven, would find Apple’s rules and business practices in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits the abuse of dominant market positions. Apple mobile devices currently hold a 30-32 percent market share in the EU.

These charges are the outcome of a thorough investigation that commenced in June, following a complaint from the Swedish music-streaming giant Spotify. When this investigation first went underway, the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager noted that “Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices.” She expressed the need to ensure Apple is not distorting competition in the app development market in which it competes.