EU regulators on Tuesday opened two investigations into Apple Inc’s mobile app store and payment platform over concerns its practices distort competition, opening a new front in the EU’s battle against the dominance of big technology companies.
The European Commission said that it formally launched the investigations over concerns that Apple’s way of doing business hurts consumers by limiting choice and innovation, and keeping prices high.
Apple dismissed the complaints as “baseless.”
The commission is examining whether Apple Pay’s rules require online shops to make it the preferred or default option, effectively shutting out rival payment systems.
It is also investigating concerns that it limits access for rival payment systems to the “tap and go” wireless function on iPhones.
The commission opened a second investigation into the App Store over concerns Apple forces developers to use the company’s own in-app purchasing system, which charges them a 30 percent commission, and restricts them from telling iPhone and iPad users about other ways to pay for digital services, such as music subscriptions.
The investigation follows complaints from music streaming service Spotify Technology SA and an e-book distributor on the impact of the App Store’s rules on competition.
“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,” European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said.
Regulators want to make sure Apple’s practices do not affect competition in markets where it competes with other app makers, Vestager said, citing its music streaming and e-book services.
It is also “important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices,” she said.
Vestager said that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth in mobile payments, as more people make online payments or “contactless” payments in stores.
Apple rejected the allegations, saying that it has created new products and services in the world’s most competitive markets.
“We follow the law in everything we do and we embrace competition at every stage because we believe it pushes us to deliver even better results,” Apple said in a statement. “It’s disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else.”
Spotify welcomed the investigation, accusing Apple of creating an “unlevel playing field” and depriving consumers of choice.
It refuses to use Apple’s payments system, which it says makes its subscriptions more expensive than those of Apple Music.
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