Apple faces fresh EU antitrust complaint

Apple is facing another antitrust complaint in Europe, after the Japanese media and ecommerce group Rakuten joined the music-streaming site Spotify in asking Brussels to investigate its App Store.

Rakuten’s ereader subsidiary Kobo claimed it was anti-competitive for Apple to charge it a 30 per cent commission for e-books sold through the App Store while promoting its own product, Apple Books.

Kobo said it loses out on business by forcing customers to go to its website to buy e-books, as it seeks to avoid the Apple commission, according to several people familiar with the complaint.

The case is a mirror of a March 2019 complaint from Spotify, which said Apple’s App Store charges allegedly tilt the playing field to disadvantage rivals and favour its own music service. The European commission has yet to rule on Spotify’s complaint.

Apple has defended the commission it charges some apps in the past by saying that it gives businesses the option to either sell their services through the App Store or not and that it provides the service to distribute apps for free. 

Users of Kobo, for instance, can download the app for free from the App Store. People familiar with Apple’s thinking argue that it is fair for businesses to pay a commission if they want to sell through the App Store as it enables access to billions of users. 

The majority of apps do not pay a 30 per cent commission but those which do are able to sell their services to more consumers directly and are able to charge users for downloading their app upfront. In the case of apps that offer auto-renewing subscriptions Apple collects 15 per cent commission after the first year. 

The European Commission declined to comment. Apple and Kobo did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The official complaint, which was sent to the European Commission in March, is at least the third against Apple’s business practices in Brussels. 

Last month tracking-app maker Tile argued in a letter sent to the commission that Apple was abusing its power to unfairly favour one of its own products.