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Spotify files complaint against Apple for its unreasonable 30% tax

16 March 2019

The first is a requirement introduced in 2011 that all iPhone app makers exclusively use Apple's payment system.

Founder and CEO of Spotify Daniel Ek has spoken out in a blog post about Apple's rules on the App Store that "purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience".

Spotify has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple, complaining to the European Commission about the "Apple tax" and unfair behaviors by the Cupertino company.

Apple Music overtook Spotify as the most popular music streaming platform in the United States past year, and later this month will launch a TV and movie streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Meanwhile, other developers have also complained about Apple's constantly evolving App Store guidelines, which feels shifting goalposts that the company changes on a whim, often to suit its own interests while claiming to do so on behalf of its users.

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify's general counsel, said the company was pressured into using the billing system in 2014, but then was forced to raise the monthly fee of its premium service from 9.99 to 12.99 euros, just as Apple Music launched at Spotify's initial 9.99 price.

Spotify files antitrust complaint to Brussels against Apple
Spotify files EU complaint against Apple's 'anticompetitive' App Store rules

Spotify and Apple Music are the two major players in the streaming music market: While Spotify's global paid subscriber total of 96 million is almost double Apple Music's 50 million, it was reported last summer that Apple Music has more United States subscribers. If Spotify chooses not to use the payment system and avoid the 30 percent charge, Ek said, Apple can complicate matters for Spotify, such as limiting its ability to communicate with customers or blocking upgrades. The European Commission said it has received Spotify's complaint, which it is assessing under its "standard procedures".

But the obvious question is why Spotify isn't also going after Google, which also charges a levy for apps on its app store and has a music-streaming service. Spotify and Apple have previously clashed over the latter's failure to approve an app update to the former.

Ek said he is asking the European Commission to take action only after he tried unsuccessfully to resolve the matter with Apple directly.

Spotify wants the same treatment as other App Store apps like Uber and Deliveroo, "who aren't subject to the Apple tax and don't have the same problems". He also wants customers to have "a real choice of payment systems".

"We aren't seeking special treatment", Ek explains. Apple "should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers", Ek writes.

Consumers win and our industry thrives when we're able to challenge each other on fair footing.

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Spotify files complaint against Apple for its unreasonable 30% tax