Apple faces another EU antitrust complaint as App Store pressure grows

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Apple is facing yet another European antitrust complaint, after Rakuten’s Kobo subsidiary complained to the European Commission about Apple’s 30 percent cut on ebooks in the App Store. The Financial Times reports that Rakuten filed the complaint in March, alleging that it’s anti-competitive for Apple to take a 30 percent commission on ebooks sold through the App Store while promoting its own Apple Books service.

Rakuten’s complaint is very similar to the complaint that Spotify filed last year in Europe. Spotify has claimed Apple uses its App Store to stifle innovation and limit consumer choice in favor of its own Apple Music service. The music streaming service is also concerned over the “Apple tax” imposed on developers, a 30 percent cut that’s taken on every Spotify subscription signed up via the App Store during the first year, and then 15 percent each year thereafter. Spotify’s antitrust complaint is still under investigation.

Netflix and Spotify have long fought against this 30 percent cut, and Apple has argued that the revenue it earns contributes toward the costs of maintaining the App Store and enforcing its content, privacy, and security guidelines. Apple has made exemptions, though. The iPhone maker confirmed the existence of a special program for streaming video providers back in April. It allows platforms like Amazon Prime Video to bypass Apple’s standard 30 percent App Store fee when selling individual movies and TV show rentals.

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Apple has also been facing claims that the App Store is a monopoly and increased scrutiny from US regulators after the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission began examining Big Tech for antitrust violations. Apple was also fined $1.2 billion by French antitrust authorities in March over illegally restricting how wholesalers sell Apple products.

Rakuten is at least the third company to file an antitrust complaint against Apple in Europe. Tile, known for its Bluetooth tracking devices, sent a letter to European competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager last month, accusing Apple of anti-competitive behavior. Tile argues that Apple’s iOS 13.5 update to Bluetooth settings has disadvantaged third-party tracking products in favor of Apple’s own FindMy app that doesn’t include the same restrictions by default. Apple has long been rumored to be working on a Tile-like tracking tag for months, but the company has not yet officially announced it despite inadvertently leaking its AirTag branding earlier this year.

The revelation of a third antitrust complaint against Apple in Europe comes just a day after Apple touted the findings of a new study that says the App Store was responsible for $519 billion in estimated total billings and sales of both physical products and services and digital goods in 2019. The study doesn’t break down how much revenue Apple generates through its 30 percent “Apple tax,” but it does highlight the $61 billion in sales and billings from digital goods and services alone.

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