March 8, 2024

European Commission fines Apple €1.8 billion for abusing its dominant position in the music streaming app market

On March 4, 2024, the European Commission announced that Apple had been fined more than €1.8 billion for abusing its dominant position with regards to the distribution of music streaming apps to iOS users through its App Store.  The fine was imposed at the conclusion of an investigation by the Commission that found that Apple prevented music streaming app developers from informing users about “alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app and from providing any instructions about how to subscribe to such offers”  – actions that are illegal under EU antitrust rules.  According to the Commission, these anti-steering provisions created unfair trading conditions that violated Article 102(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union because the provisions were not necessary or proportionate to the protection of Apple’s commercial interests related to the App Store.  The provision also negatively affected iOS users’ interests by preventing them from making informed decisions on where or how to purchase music streaming subscriptions.  In addition to the fine, the Commission ordered Apple to remove the anti-steering provisions and refrain from adopting similar practices in the future.

In its investigation, the Commission determined that, as a condition to having access to Apple’s App Store and the ability to reach iOS users throughout the European Economic Area (“EEA”), app developers were banned from informing iOS users within their apps about the prices of internet-based subscription offers outside of the app and price differences between in-app subscriptions offered by Apple and those available elsewhere.  Investigators also discovered that app developers were prevented from including links in their apps to the developer’s website that would enable iOS users to purchase alternative music subscriptions and informing newly acquired users of alternative pricing options.

The Commission reported that the €1.8 billion fine, which was based on the duration and gravity of the infringement and Apple’s total turnover and market capitalization, was appropriate because it was proportionate to Apple’s global revenues and necessary to deter future misconduct.  According to the Commission, Apple’s infringement lasted almost 10 years and may have resulted in iOS users paying significantly higher prices for music streaming subscriptions as well as a degraded user experience.

European Commission Press Release