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Spotify Files Complaint Against Apple with the European Commission

Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, writing on recent actions the company has taken against Apple:

Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body responsible for keeping competition fair and nondiscriminatory. In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience—essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition.
[...]
What we are asking for is the following:

  • First, apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions—including Apple Music.
  • Second, consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple’s.
  • Finally, app stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers.

In addition to Ek's note, Spotify has also launched a website, TimeToPlayFair.com, that outlines in greater detail its grievances against Apple. The site contains a timeline documenting Spotify's working relationship with Apple, highlighting things such as Spotify's inability to integrate with Siri, the long delay before they could offer an Apple Watch app, and Apple's frequent App Store rejections when Spotify added language promoting its Premium service. The full timeline can be viewed here.

Spotify's aim is to promote a level playing field between Apple's apps and services and those of third parties. One example Spotify highlights at several points in its timeline is that they were unable to create an Apple Watch app until after watchOS 5 launched. Apple Music has been on the Watch for years, so there's clearly a disadvantage to Spotify there – however, that disadvantage was due to the limitations of OS-level APIs provided to all third-party developers, not just those who compete with Apple services.

watchOS is still a relatively young platform. At what point should Apple be forced to prioritize development of frameworks that better equip third-party services to exist on its platform rather than developing other important enhancements to its software? These complexities are going to make it very interesting to see how the European Commission views this case.