Apple faces two EU antitrust investigations

The EC will examine the company's "anticompetitive" App Store rules and Apple Pay platform

External shot of a flagship Apple store

The European Commission (EC) has announced that it's launching antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store rules and Apple Pay platform.

The first probe will assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules.

Specifically, the EC will look at the way Apple forces developers to use its proprietary in-app purchase system and restricts their ability to inform iPhone and iPad users of alternative cheaper purchasing options outside of apps.

Executive VP Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "It appears that Apple obtained a 'gatekeeper; role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple's popular devices.

"We need to ensure that Apple's rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books."

The launch of the investigation follows a complaint from music streaming company Spotify, which argued that Apple uses its App Store to stifle innovation and limit consumer choice in favour of its own Apple Music service.

Rakuten’s Kobo subsidiary also to the EC about Apple’s "anticompetitive" 30% cut on ebooks sold through the App Store.

The EC is also investigating Apple Pay and said it will examine Apple’s terms and conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants' apps and websites and its limitation of access to NFC technology. 

“It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites,” Vestager said.

“It also reserves the 'tap and go' functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices.

"I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s practices regarding Apple Pay and their impact on competition.”

If the EC ultimately rules against Apple, the company could be forced to change its business practices and hit with a fine up to 10% of its global turnover. 

Apple isn't the only company the EC has its sights set on. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the antitrust watchdog is also planning to file formal antitrust charges against Amazon over its treatment of third-party sellers.

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