Apple faces yet another EU headache — European Commission 'assessing' non-compliance over Spotify and App Store terms

Spotify logo on iPhone
(Image credit: Getty Images / NurPhoto)

The European Commission (EC) is assessing whether Apple has fully complied with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) regarding its App Store rules and how users pay for services like Spotify on their iPhones. 

In a statement to iMore, a Commission spokesperson confirmed on Monday, "We are currently assessing whether Apple has fully complied with the Commission’s decision of 4 March 2024," in which Apple was fined over 1.8 billion euros over "abusive App Store rules." 

As you’re no doubt aware, Apple has been forced to make a series of sweeping changes to its App Store business model in the EU to comply with the DMA, resulting in new alternative app marketplaces, web distribution of apps, and changes to the rules around game streaming apps. 

However, some of Apple’s new rules have raised eyebrows with the EC and prospective rivals, such that Apple is already under investigation under the new laws. Now, Apple might have yet another investigative headache on its hands, this time regarding ‘anti-steering’ provisions and how music streaming apps can offer pricing and offers to their customers.

EC “currently assessing” Apple’s DMA compliance 

In that March 4 decision, the EC ruled that Apple unfairly "bans music streaming app developers from fully informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services" outside of the App Store, and "from providing any instructions about how to subscribe to such offers." 

On Friday, Apple unveiled its new rules regarding music streaming apps that provide an external purchase link. The new rules confirm Apple's new Music Streaming Services Entitle which allows developers to link to their website and inform users of other ways to pay for streaming services.  In a statement to iMore, Spotify spokesperson Jeanne Moran said “On March 4th, when sharing the European Commission’s decision, Commissioner Vestager made it clear that Apple must now allow music streaming developers to communicate freely with their users, including offering links to purchase. Following the law is not optional, but Apple continues to defy that decision. Effective April 6th, the Commission can start noncompliance proceedings and impose daily fines. It’s time for decisive action to once and for all give consumers real choice.”

Spotify further revealed that it is reviewing the language of Apple's newly published guidelines and the 27% commission fee, and highlighted EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager's comments that Apple "will have to allow music streaming developers to communicate freely with their own users, be it within the app, or by email, or any other way of communicating." 

The company confirmed that Apple has not approved its app submission, which includes pricing and a link users can follow to buy Spotify Premium. 

It means that the EC is once again knocking on Apple’s door to assess whether or not the company’s rules about external purchase links are up to scratch. Apple has set a series of prescriptive guidelines for apps like Spotify to follow if they want to send customers away from the App Store and to their own websites to take payments for music streaming. Such a system was in theory designed to stop Apple from taking a percentage cut of sales, however, Apple says it will still take “27% on proceeds you earn from sales” after a link out “provided that the sale was initiated within seven days and the digital goods or services can be used in an app.” 

In March. Spotify revealed it was planning to update its app in accordance with these new linking guidelines. The company has since claimed that its updates are being held up by Apple’s app review process,

As antitrust and litigation expert Florian Mueller notes, it seems likely that Apple has rejected a recent update attempt from Spotify, rather than choosing to delay any review process, a theory confirmed by Crofts.  As it stands, Spotify hasn’t had the chance to put its new, updated app to users, however, it’s possible this is because it doesn’t stack up to Apple’s new rules. Whether those rules are in keeping with the DMA, is up to the EC to decide. 

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9