EU Fines Apple €1.8bn for Anti-Competitive Behaviour in Music Streaming

The European Union has imposed a fine of €1.8bn (£1.5bn) on Apple for violating competition laws related to music streaming services. The European Commission found that Apple had unlawfully restricted streaming platforms from informing users about payment alternatives outside of the Apple app store, thereby abusing its dominant market position for over a decade.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager emphasised that Apple’s actions hindered competition by preventing developers from informing consumers about alternative and potentially cheaper music services outside of the Apple ecosystem. She mandated that Apple remove all such restrictions. In response, Apple announced its intention to appeal the decision, arguing that there was no evidence of consumer harm and asserting the competitiveness and growth of the market.

The EU’s decision stemmed from a complaint lodged by Swedish music streaming service Spotify, which objected to Apple’s restrictions and its imposition of a 30% fee. Spotify hailed the fine as a significant moment, sending a powerful message that even a dominant player like Apple cannot exploit its power to control customer interactions.

Apple countered Spotify’s claims by highlighting that Spotify sells subscriptions on its website, bypassing the app store commission. The ongoing dispute between Apple and Spotify underscores broader concerns about competition in the digital marketplace.

The enforcement action aligns with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), aimed at fostering competition in the technology sector and curbing the dominance of major players like Apple and Google. The DMA requires tech companies to comply with specific regulations to ensure fair competition or face substantial fines.

Legal experts anticipate that the DMA will reshape the digital landscape in the EU, ushering in more competition and accountability among designated platforms. Companies like Apple, Meta, and TikTok have until a looming deadline to adhere to the DMA’s requirements or risk significant penalties.

In a letter to the European Commission, Spotify and other digital companies criticised Apple’s lack of compliance with the DMA, underscoring the need for rigorous enforcement to ensure fair and competitive digital markets. The ongoing regulatory scrutiny reflects the EU’s commitment to fostering innovation and competition while holding tech giants accountable for their market practices.

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