“They want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that,” Apple said in a statement. “The commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition.”
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Criticism of the App Store is part of a broader debate over tech industry power, where a small number of companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon have government-like authority to set policies over major parts of the digital economy. It determines how people find information and entertainment, communicate and shop.
This week, Apple flexed its power by introducing a software update that gave customers more power to block data tracking by apps, a change that has sparked a rivalry with Facebook, which has criticized the move as anticompetitive because it will harm the ability to sell online advertising.
Companies are increasingly pushing regulators and courts to intervene. At a congressional hearing in Washington last week, companies including Spotify, Tile and Match Group told senators how policies by Apple and Google, whose Play Store is another pinch point for app developers, hurt competition and resulted in higher app prices for customers. And next week, a trial is scheduled to begin in California between Apple and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite that has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple over its fees.
Britain is conducting another antitrust investigation of Apple over the App Store after receiving complaints from developers.
The case announced on Friday is part of a broader effort by the European Union to clamp down on so-called gatekeeper companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Policymakers are drafting laws that would prevent the tech giants from abusing their market power to harm smaller companies, including how they manage app stores.
Efforts to force changes to the App Store pose a threat to a fast-growing piece of Apple’s business. As sales of iPhones, iPads and other hardware devices mature, the company is counting on digital services as a fresh source of growth. Optimism among investors about that business has helped send Apple’s stock soaring, giving it a market value of more than $2.2 trillion, the largest in the world.