Spotify files complaint against Apple with EU over app store 'tax'

Wednesday 13 March 2019 | 14:33 CET | News
Update: 15 March 2019 | 10:44 CET

Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission, saying the company benefits from unfair competition on its App Store as Apple favours certain apps, namely its own, over others. Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek said Apple acts as “both a player and referee” and that it purposely limits choice, to the deliberate disadvantage of other app developers.

Spotify already stopped selling its subscriptions over Apple's platform in January. Customers can still download the iOS app for Spotify on the App Store, but are redirected to the Spotify website if they want to sign up and pay for a Premium subscription. Netflix made the same decision earlier this year.  

Apple's payment system 'tax'

Ek said Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30 percent "tax" on purchases made through Apple’s payment system, including when upgrading from the Spotify free service to a Premium subscription. Paying the fee would artificially inflate the price of Spotify's Premium subscription above that of Apple Music. 

But if Spotify does not use Apple’s payment system, it is then subjected to technical and experience-limiting restrictions, the company said. In some cases, Spotify was not able to send emails to customers using Apple. Apple also routinely blocks experience-enhancing upgrades, the company claims. Over time, this has included locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services such as Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch. 

All apps should be treated the same as Apple Music 

Ek said Spotify should get the same treatment as many other apps on the App Store, like Uber or Deliveroo, which are not subject to the Apple "tax" and therefore do not have the same restrictions. Specifically, Spotify is asking for Apple to let apps compete fairly on the App Store, and not based on who owns the App Store. "We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions -including Apple Music," the CEO said. 

Secondly, Apple should let people have a real choice in payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs, Spotify said. Finally, app stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers.

Apple: “Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free.” 


Apple put out a statement in response to the accusations, saying “Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free.” Apple added that it approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app. “The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows,” the company said.


[15/03/2019 10:44 - Update: adding response from Apple]

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Categories: Internet / Mobile & Wireless
Companies: Apple / European Commission / Spotify
Countries: Europe / World
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