EU slims down antitrust case against Apple

On Tuesday, February 28th, the EU released an updated Statement of Objections, clarifying its position on App Store rules for music streaming providers.

The Commission’s concern over Apple’s IAP obligation (i.e, the imposition of Apple’s in-app payment technology and with it a 30% fee) is no longer in scope. Focus has narrowed to investigating the contractual obligations that Apple imposes which prevent streaming providers from informing iOS users of alternative subscription options.

Mlex Editor, Lewis Crofts, has described this as a “big win” for Apple.

However, whilst the update seems like an admission of defeat, the Commission’s decision to slim down its case is probably more strategic than anything. Indeed, when the Digital Markets Act comes into force in March 2024, Apple’s IAP obligation will be banned along with a number of restrictions it has leveraged through its control of iOS ecosystem. The Commission is thus saving itself the obligation of proving dominance and abuse.

The original Statement of Objections was issued nearly two years ago, in April 2021. In these two years Apple has been free to extract monopoly rents and harm competition. Unfortunately, it will continue to do so for a further year.