The Dutch Consumer and Market Authority (Autoriteit Consument en Markt) seems close to deciding on Apple’s commission for purchases made through the App Store. This would make it the first antitrust commission to rule on the matter.
This writes Reuters, which has seen an internal letter. The ACM has been investigating since 2019 whether Apple is violating antitrust laws with its App Store policies. Developers who want to release an application for iOS or iPadOS can only do so via the App Store. However, in doing so, they must comply with strict rules.
One of those rules is that any payments that need to be made for the app itself or a subscription must be paid through the App Store. Even if the app only makes a brief reference to an alternative payment option on, for example, a website, Apple will not allow the app to appear in the App Store.
Apple charges a commission of 30 per cent on settling such payments. This is comparable to the commissions charged by other platforms, but an important difference here is that iOS has a very significant share of the market, and competition is not possible at all.
Lawsuit from Epic Games
This attitude of Apple is causing dissatisfaction among many developers. Last summer, game developer Epic started a lawsuit against Apple because of its unfair competitive position. Not only were the complaints about the strict requirements of the App Store and the high commissions, but Epic also emphasised that Apple itself offers alternatives to third-party apps, such as Apple Music versus Spotify. And Apple Music does not have to give up 30 per cent of its revenue through iOS to a third party.
Last fall, Apple decided to lower the App Store commission for smaller developers. If a developer earns no more than 1 million dollars a month, they only have to remit 15 percent of their App Store revenue to Apple. According to Apple, the vast majority of developers would benefit from this reduction. On the other hand, the vast majority of Apple’s revenue from the App Store comes from big players like Epic and Spotify. Apple claims that this reduction has nothing to do with Epic’s complaint, but the timing is striking.
It is not yet known whether the ACM will designate Apple’s App Store policy as unfair competition. It is also not clear when the final ruling will be issued. The European Commission is also looking into the matter.