Apple is not a stranger to antitrust cases brought against it, and it’s certainly not deaf to the complaints of developers, both part of small companies and larger entities. Which is good, because neither one of those things are going away anytime soon, it seems.
Take, for instance, a couple of additional large companies joining with the likes of Spotify and, most recently, Rakuten, in complaints over Apple’s App Store fees. It’s not a secret that Apple takes a cut from (some) apps that are sold in its digital storefronts, and subscription apps are no different. Many companies, including Spotify, have taken umbrage to this practice — especially as Apple continues to launch competing products that don’t have to deal with the same cuts.
We’ve reported on this for quite some time now, but things took another turn as the European Union opened a pair of antitrust cases against Apple, one of which is meant to specifically look at Apple’s current practice of taking up to a 30% cut from in-app purchases made through the App Store. In the case of Spotify, the music streaming giant believes Apple stifles innovation and competition with its fees, and limits consumer choice by favoring its own products.
Meanwhile, Rakuten is arguing against Apple’s fees as it relates to ebooks. The company believes it’s anti-competitive for Apple to take the fee from ebooks it sells through the App Store while promoting its own digital books service, Apple Books.
Now, as reported by The Verge, a pair of additional companies have jumped on board with complaints against Apple. This time around it’s Epic Games, makers of the Epic Games Store (which wants to bring its own storefront to iOS devices in the future) and the ridiculously popular battle royale game Fortnite, and Match Group, the owner of dating apps like Tinder and Hinge.
Per the report:
Apple is a partner, but also a dominant platform whose actions force the vast majority of consumers to pay more for third-party apps that Apple arbitrarily defines as ‘digital services,’” a Match Group spokesperson said, adding that various industries, including dating, have to forfeit 30 percent on their in-app revenue to Apple. “We welcome the opportunity to discuss this with Apple and create an equitable distribution of fees across the entire App Store, as well as with interested parties in the EU and in the U.S.
An Apple spokesperson responded to the new antitrust case brought up in the EU:
It’s disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else,” said an Apple spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “We don’t think that’s right — we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed.
Part of the issue comes from the fact that Apple appears to play favorites with some companies. Take, for example, the Amazon Prime Video app that now supports in-app purchases thanks to an “established program” that exempts some apps from Apple’s fees. Basically, as some have pointed out in the past, if the other company is big enough and can exert some kind of leverage at some point, they can avoid the fees Apple is so strict about in just about any other situation.
The Match Group is not a fan of the fact that Apple gets a 30% cut any time one of its users upgrades to a premium version of its apps, or buys an al a carte feature within one of the dating apps. It’s a similar situation for in-app purchases made for gamers enjoying Epic Games’ Fortnite.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, tweeted out yesterday that the company will not “seek nor accept a special deal just for ourselves.”.
Here Apple speaks of a level playing field. To me, this means: All iOS developers are free to process payments directly, all users are free to install software from any source. In this endeavor, Epic won’t seek nor accept a special deal just for ourselves.https://t.co/A4sT1eMKMm
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) June 17, 2020
This all comes on the heels of Apple’s App Store review process coming into the light, especially as it relates to in-app purchases and Apple essentially demanding a developer include an option for customers to buy a subscription within the app so Apple can earn its fee. That app is the subscription email app “Hey”, and Apple is currently denying any future software updates (both bug fixes and new feature additions) until, essentially, the developers input an option for an in-app subscription purchase.
While that email app was initially approved, Apple has already confirmed that the company’s mistake was actually approving it in the first place — not that it’s trying to extort money from the developer now that the subscription email app has gained traction and is becoming popular.
Apple has faced these types of complaints for years, but it has picked up steam as the company starts developing more and more of its own apps that compete with many of these other options. It certainly feels like a good time for Apple to make some changes on its own, to try and get ahead of all of this before it ultimately gets worse, because it’s starting to feel like a crucial turning point.
But what do you think? Is Apple in the right with its App Store fee?