Spotify Pen’s joint letter calling Apple “harmful” and “anti-competitive” and claiming the App Store is ruining business

Spotify and eight companies and associations have written a letter to the EU’s competition commissioner, calling Apple a harmful, anti-competitive and monopolistic company that needs to be regulated through “urgent action”.

The letter, signed by the CEOs and heads of Basecamp, Deezer, Proton, Schibsted, Spotify, European Publishers Council (EPC), France Digitale and News Media Europe, was sent to Margrethe Vestager from the EU. The letter urges the EU to take regulatory action and end an ongoing investigation launched by Spotify into Apple’s app distribution practices.

The group claims Apple’s App Store has stymied their business, constantly making it difficult for them to grow due to the platform’s policies and their “capricious changes to terms and conditions.”

For years, Apple has imposed unfair restrictions on our businesses. These restrictions hinder our development and harm European consumers. These include tying the App Store to Apple’s proprietary payments system, with its inflated commissions for app developers; creating artificial barriers that prevent our businesses from communicating freely with our customers; restrictions on developers’ access to their own users’ data; and capricious changes to the Terms and Conditions. Apple benefits from a monopoly over its mobile ecosystem, drawing exorbitant rents from app developers who have no choice but to stay on the App Store to reach European consumers.

“The time has come for urgent EU action to end Apple’s abusive behavior,” the letter said, citing the newly passed Digital Markets Act (DMA) and calling for its swift enforcement. “The EU has the opportunity to lead, but it must act quickly because every day that passes is a loss for innovation and for the well-being of European consumers,” it said.

In April 2021, the EU published the Commission’s Statement of Objections against Apple, setting out its findings following an investigation into unfair “app store” practices. In the statement, the EU said that Apple “abuses its dominant position in the distribution of music streaming apps through its ‘App Store'” and that it has problems with the “mandatory use of Apple’s own in-app purchase mechanism, which imposed on music streaming app developers to distribute their apps.” Now the group claims these alleged wrongdoings are being experienced by “countless other app providers” and not just music streaming apps.

We therefore call for a swift decision in the antitrust proceedings against Apple for illegal, anti-competitive behavior in music streaming services. Many of the anti-competitive practices described in the Commission’s Statement of Objections against Apple are not only perceived by music streaming services, but also by countless other app providers who want to offer goods and services via the iOS App Store. This statement of objections is almost two years old and the abuse and harm to consumers will continue until a remedy is obtained. Beyond the specific App Store case, the EU authorities urgently need to address Apple’s abusive behavior in other areas, such as publishing, web software, communications and marketplaces.

Apple has repeatedly been accused of unfair and anti-competitive business practices in its “App Store,” with Spotify being one of the most vocal critics. In October, Spotify issued a press release accusing Apple of damaging “the abilities of Spotify and other developers to provide a seamless user experience,” stating that these limitations “harm both developers and consumers alike.”

Though Spotify has been vocal about its rejection of Apple’s “App Store,” the music-streaming service has neglected widespread requests to add HomePod support to its app, despite many of its competitors doing so. As a result, some Spotify customers have switched to other platforms such as Apple Music. In an independent blog post on its website this week, Spotify said, “Apple has been made possible by a lack of decisive action from regulators, who remain hesitant to act even in the face of an outpouring of support.”