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Apple fined nearly $2 billion by EU in antitrust investigation into music streaming | News from Radio-Canada

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The European Union imposed its first antitrust sanction on Apple on Monday, fining the US tech giant nearly $2 billion for violating EU competition laws by unfairly favoring its own streaming service. musical compared to its competitors.

Apple has blocked app developers from telling users where they can go to pay for cheaper music subscriptions instead of paying through iOS apps, the European Commission, the executive body of the 27-nation bloc and the primary agency responsible for enforcing antitrust laws.

“It is illegal. And it has had an impact on millions of European consumers who have not been able to freely choose where, how and at what price to buy streaming music subscriptions,” said Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner. to the competition, during a press conference. conference in Brussels.

Apple – which said it contested the decision – behaved in this way for a decade, which resulted in “millions of people paying two, three euros more per month for their music streaming service than what they that they would have had to pay differently,” she said.

The 1.8 billion euro fine follows an investigation sparked by a complaint from Swedish streaming service Spotify five years ago. Since then, the EU has drawn up new regulations that come into force this week to prevent tech giants from cornering digital markets.

The EU has led global efforts to crack down on big tech companies, including imposing three fines on Google totaling more than €8 billion and accusing Meta of distorting the online classifieds market.

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Apple, meanwhile, is also trying to resolve a separate EU antitrust investigation into its mobile payment service by promising to open its tap-and-go mobile payment system to competitors.

Decision ‘ignores market realities,’ Apple says

The fine for the music streaming investigation is so high because it includes a significant additional lump sum to deter Apple from reoffending and to deter other technology companies from committing similar offenses, the commission said.

Apple responded to the commission and Spotify, saying it would appeal the sanction.

“The decision was made despite the Commission’s failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm and ignores the realities of a thriving, competitive and rapidly growing market,” the company said in a statement.

The silhouette of a hand holds a phone that displays the Spotify logo.  The background is green and also shows the Spotify logo.
A smartphone is seen in front of a screen projection of the Spotify logo, in this photo taken April 1, 2018. Apple says Spotify stands to benefit from the EU decision, saying it “consolidates the dominant position of a European system prosperous”. company which is the undisputed leader in the digital music market. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

He said Spotify stands to benefit from the EU decision, saying the Swedish streaming giant, which has a 56% share of the European music streaming market and does not pay Apple for use of its App Store, met with the commission more than 65 times during the year. investigation.

“Ironically, in the name of competition, today’s decision only consolidates the dominant position of a successful European company that is the undisputed leader in the digital music market,” Apple said.

Spotify said it welcomed the EU fine, without responding to Apple’s accusations.

“This decision sends a powerful message that no company, not even a monopoly like Apple, can exercise abusive power to control how other companies interact with their customers,” Spotify said in a blog post.

The commission’s investigation initially focused on two concerns. One is the iPhone maker’s practice of requiring app developers that sell digital content to use its internal payment system, which charges a 30% commission on all subscriptions.

But the EU then abandoned that idea to focus on how Apple prevents app makers from informing their users about cheaper ways to pay for subscriptions that don’t involve going through an app.

The investigation found that Apple had banned streaming services from informing users about the cost of subscription offers outside of their apps, including links in their apps to pay for alternative subscriptions or even sending emails. Emails to users to inform them of different pricing options.

“As a result, millions of European music streaming users were left in the dark about all available options,” Vestager said, adding that the commission’s investigation found that just over 20 percent of consumers who would have subscribed to Spotify’s premium service had not done so. I don’t do it because of the restrictions.

New rules against the domination of digital markets

The fine comes just before new EU rules come into force aimed at preventing technology companies from dominating digital markets.

The Digital Markets Act, set to take effect Thursday, imposes a set of do’s and don’ts on “gatekeeper” companies, including Apple, Meta, Google’s parent company Alphabet, and ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, under threat of heavy fines.

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The DMA’s provisions are intended to prevent tech giants from committing the type of behavior that is at the heart of the Apple investigation. Apple has already revealed how it would comply, including allowing iPhone users in Europe to use app stores other than its own and allowing developers to offer alternative payment systems.

Vestager warned that the commission would carefully examine how Apple follows the new rules.

“Apple will need to open the doors to its ecosystem to make it easy for users to find the apps they want, pay for them however they want, and use them on any device they want,” she said. declared.

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