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EU flags Apple for preventing customers from cheaper third-party options

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  • 3 min read

The European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that the company’s App Store rules potentially violate the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The Commission’s concerns centre on Apple’s restrictions on app developers, preventing them from freely guiding consumers to alternative channels for offers and content.

The DMA mandates that developers distributing their apps via Apple’s App Store inform customers about alternative, cheaper purchasing options, direct customers to these alternatives, and facilitate purchases without additional costs. However, the Commission’s preliminary findings indicate that Apple’s current practices fall short of these requirements.

As per the Commission, Apple’s business terms include restrictions that hinder developers from communicating alternative offers to customers within the app. While Apple permits ‘link-outs,’ where developers can include a link to an external web page, this process is heavily restricted. Developers face limitations on communicating and promoting offers, and they incur fees for any purchases made within seven days of a link-out.

The Commission’s preliminary view is that these practices do not comply with Article 5(4) of the DMA, which regulates gatekeepers to allow developers to steer consumers to external offers without charge. If these findings are confirmed, the Commission could issue a non-compliance decision within a year of initiating proceedings on March 25, 2024.

If found guilty, Apple can face fines up to 10% of its worldwide turnover.

“Today we take further steps to ensure Apple complies with the DMA rules. We have reason to believe that the AppStore rules not allowing app developers to communicate freely with their own users is in breach of the DMA. We are also opening a new case in relation to Apple’s new business terms for iOS,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.

In addition to the preliminary findings on steering rules, the Commission has launched a new non-compliance investigation into Apple’s contractual terms for developers. This investigation also focuses on Apple’s new “Core Technology Fee” and other requirements that might not meet the DMA’s standards for necessity and proportionality.

Under the new terms, third-party app developers and stores must pay a €0.50 fee per installed app. The Commission will scrutinise whether this fee structure aligns with the DMA’s requirements. Moreover, the investigation will examine Apple’s multi-step process for downloading and installing alternative app stores or apps on iPhones and the eligibility requirements for developers to offer alternative app stores or distribute apps directly from the web.

Fines for non-compliance with the DMA can reach up to 10% of a gatekeeper’s total worldwide turnover, escalating to 20% for repeated infringement.

Apple can now defend itself against the Commission’s preliminary findings. The results of this inquiry could have far-reaching effects on Apple and the wider app development industry. As the Digital Markets App is implemented, major technology companies will likely face a more intense examination of their operations methods and adherence to European competition regulations.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: