Home Business EU officials launch antitrust probes of Apple’s App Store, Apple Pay

EU officials launch antitrust probes of Apple’s App Store, Apple Pay

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European Union regulators have launched two antitrust investigations focused on whether Apple violated competition rules in its App Store and its mobile payment service.

The probes mark the European Commission’s latest crackdown on tech giants over competition concerns. Regulators could fine Apple up to 10 percent of its annual revenue if they find the company broke competition law.

One of the probes will examine Apple’s practice of forcing developers to use its proprietary system for purchases made through iPhone and iPad apps, commission officials said Tuesday. The California-based tech giant charges developers a 30 percent commission for such purchases and restricts them from telling users about cheaper purchasing options, according to EU officials.

Regulators raised concerns that the practice distorts competition for music streaming services on Apple devices following a 2019 complaint from Spotify. Ebooks distributor Kobo reportedly filed a similar complaint in March.

“It appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices,” European Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books.”

The commission’s other probe will examine whether Apple Pay’s terms and conditions governing its integration with merchant apps and websites hurt competition and reduce choices, officials said.

Regulators say they will also examine Apple’s alleged efforts to restrict access to Apple Pay for rivals’ products. Apple Pay is currently the only mobile payment service that can be used with the “tap and go” technology embedded in iPhones, according to EU officials.

In a statement, Apple said it follows the law and slammed the European Commission for “advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

“We don’t think that’s right — we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed,” Apple said.

The European Commission announced the probes following a report that it plans to bring antitrust charges against e-commerce giant Amazon for allegedly copying third-party products. EU regulators also fined Google $5 billion in 2018 for anti-competitive behavior related to its Android operating system for smartphones.

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