Stuck in a long-standing conflict with Apple, Spotify sees a glimmer in the Brussels sky. Four years after the filing of a complaint against the Californian giant with the European Commission for abuse of a dominant position, the world leader in music streaming is counting on the gradual implementation of the Digital Markets Act, adopted in the summer of 2022, to solve part of the problem.
“We hope the Commission will enforce it quickly and effectively against ‘gatekeepers’,” said Olivia Regnier, European affairs director at Spotify. “If Apple complies, it could potentially solve the case. But we expect a difficult implementation,” she adds.
The European Union must appoint by September 6 next the “access controllers”, who will have to comply before March 6, 2024 with certain rules. They will thus have to “authorize user companies to promote their offer and conclude contracts with their customers outside its platform” and stop imposing their payment system.
Specifically two of Spotify’s recurring grievances against Apple. Contesting the 30% commission taken by Apple on the income generated via iOS applications (reduced to 15% after one year of subscription), which would make its service more expensive than that of its competitor Apple Music, Spotify has long sought to exempt themselves from it. But the Swedish company does not currently have the freedom to communicate with users of its application to tell them how to subscribe outside the App Store.
In the United States too
Spotify is also maintaining its complaint, filed in 2019, following which the European Commission opened an investigation in 2020 and then published a preliminary “statement of objections” in 2021, considering that Apple “distorted competition on the music streaming market by abusing its dominant position”, in particular by imposing its purchase mechanism.
This was followed at the end of February last by a new “statement of objections”, this time limited to the barriers posed to consumer information on subscription offers outside the application.
Apple will continue to work with the European Commission to understand and address their concerns, while promoting competition and choice for European consumers. “We are pleased that the Commission has narrowed its case and no longer challenges Apple’s right to collect commission on digital goods and to require the use of the app’s internal payment systems. The App Store has helped Spotify to become the first streaming service in Europe and we hope that the Commission will end the examination of a complaint which has no foundation.
Spotify is of course expecting a different outcome. “We hope for a decision that banishes certain practices, in particular on the imposed payment system, with the 30% commission, or the ban on communicating with users”, comments Olivia Regnier. The decision could give rise to an appeal and prolong the procedure. At the same time, Spotify continues its fight in the United States, where the company is pushing Congress to p antitrust legislation that would impose safeguards on application stores like the App Store.