Spotify Files EU Complaint Against Apple Over 30 Percent App Tax
To keep our price competitive for our customers, [this price inflation] isn't something we can do,' Spotify CEO Daniel Ek tells the European Commission.
Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission that says Cupertino "introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience."
The music-streaming service is particularly irked by the 30 percent cut Apple takes from Spotify Premium subscriptions that customers complete through the App Store. In the U.S., Spotify covers these costs by charging people $12.99 per month for subscriptions completed via the App Store; it's $9.99 if you subscribe directly via Spotify's website and then sign in via the iOS app.
"To keep our price competitive for our customers, [this price inflation] isn't something we can do," Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a statement.
"If we choose not to use Apple's payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify," Ek wrote, including limiting communication with customers and locking Spotify out of integration with Apple services like Siri, HomePod and Apple Watch.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some companies, like Netflix, have opted out of Apple's 30 percent tax. It's why you can't purchase ebooks via the Kindle app or movies through the Prime Video app. Customers instead must buy books or movies via Amazon.com on the browser and then sync their purchases in the iOS apps.
Apple Music, which accepts sign-ups via iTunes and iOS, costs $9.99 per month.
In its complaint, Spotify argues that it should be treated like Deliveroo or Uber, which are not required to hand over 30 percent of money earned on food orders or rides to Apple. Specifically, the music-streaming site is asking that:
- Apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store.
- Consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be "locked in" to one particular service.
- App Stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users.
To hammer home this point, Spotify launched a website called Time To Play Fair, which documents what Spotify considers to be Apple's self-serving behavior. The site mentions Apple changing its App Store guidelines in 2011, dismissing Spotify's proposals for an Apple Watch app in 2015 and 2016 (before it released one in 2018), and apparently rejecting specific marketing phrases such as "Get in, Get Premium."
The European Commission received the Spotify complaint, "which we are assessing under our standard procedures," a spokesperson tells The Wall Street Journal.
The move comes after Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google to be broken up.
Adam Smith is the Contributing Editor for PCMag UK, and has written about technology for a number of publications including What Hi-Fi?, Stuff, WhatCulture, and MacFormat, reviewing smartphones, speakers, projectors, and all manner of weird tech. Always online, occasionally cromulent, you can follow him on Twitter @adamndsmith.