EU Slams Apple With $1.9B Antitrust Fine Over Streaming Spat With Spotify

hero apple music spotify
The European Commission took a huge bite out of Apple’s income in a recent decision, as it fined the Cupertino-based company 1.84 billion Euro ($1.9 billion USD) for disregarding competition from streaming rivals, such as Spotify, on its App Store. The ruling is the first against Apple for breaching EU rules, following a 2019 complaint from Spotify.

European regulators have been hot and heavy on the trail of big tech to keep the titans of industry in check and ensure none are in violation of breaching EU antitrust laws. The EU has already made an example of Google, after fining the company $2.42B euro ($2.7B USD) in 2017 for using its price comparison shopping service to gain an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals. Now, the Commission has issued Apple a fine of its own for what it says is a decade of restricting music streaming app developers from informing its customers about cheaper options available outside of the App Store.

In a response to the European Commission’s decision against Apple, EC Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager remarked, “Today, the Commission has fined Apple 1.8 billion (Euros) for abusing its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps.” Vestager continued, “Apple did so by restricting app developers’ ability to inform users of Apple devices about alternative, cheaper options to purchase music available on the internet outside of the Apple ecosystem.”

apple music on iphone screen

Vestager added Apple imposed its “anti-steering” obligations on the music streaming providers, and left the competition with “no other choice than to accept” the terms Apple put into place, or choose to abandon the App Store altogether. The EC Executive Vice President also implied that Apple holds a monopoly in the market for distribution of music streaming apps on Apple devices.

Before the fine was handed down, many had speculated that it would fall within the range of around $500M euros, four times lower than what the European Commission settled on. This has left some to think the European Commission is flexing its muscle with Apple, and attempting to deter Apple, and other big tech companies, from trying to circumnavigate the EU’s rules. Vestager seemed to echo this sentiment, remarking that if it had been smaller, it would have equated into nothing more than a parking fine.

Apple was quick to respond to the fine, stating that the decision “was reached despite the Commission’s failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm, and ignores the reality of a market that is thriving, competitive, and growing fast.” The company added in its statement, “The primary advocate for this decision - and the biggest beneficiary - is Spotify, a company based in Stockholm, Sweden. Spotify has the largest music streaming app in the world, and has met with the European Commission more than 65 times during this investigation.” Apple plans to appeal the decision.

The latest ruling of the European Commission highlights its determination to punish any tech company who steps outsides EU rules. It is also another attempt to weaken Apple’s “walled garden,” and provide competitors with a more even playing field.