The Netherlands’ antitrust watchdog finds Apple App Store payment rules are anti-competitive

The Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has found that Apple’s rules requiring app developers to use its in-app payment system, where commissions range between 15% and 30%, are anti-competitive and ordered it to make changes, Reuters reports Thursday, citing “four people familiar with the matter.”

Apple's App Store on iPhone
Apple’s App Store on iPhone

Foo Yun Chee, Toby Sterling, and Stephen Nellis for Reuters:

The Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) last month informed the U.S. technology giant of its decision, making it the first antitrust regulator to make a finding the company has abused market power in the app store, though Apple is facing challenges in multiple countries.

ACM has not levied a fine against Apple, but demanded changes to the in-app payment system, the people said.

An ACM spokesperson declined to comment, saying that the matter is currently under legal review. The regulator has previously said it expects to publish its decision this year.

The people said Apple has asked the Rotterdam District Court for an injunction to block publication of the ruling during its appeal.

A court spokesman confirmed the existence of the case to block publication, but could not say when a decision is expected. The proceedings are not open to the press or public.

MacDailyNews Take: Change is a constant. Apple has the headroom to make tweaks to the App Store to satisfy the regulators.

See also:
‘Fortnite’ creator Epic Games unhappy with ruling in Apple case, files appeal – September 13, 2021
Australia considering new laws for Apple Pay, other digital payment systems – August 30, 2021
• Japan Fair Trade Commission closes App Store investigation; Apple to allow ‘reader’ apps to link to external websites for users to set up or manage accounts – September 2, 2021

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  1. Free Market competition is not magic. It is a system that only benefits consumers if certain conditions are met.

    An average consumer needs to be able to distinguish a good product from a bad one.
    It must be easy for consumers to switch from one provider to another.
    It must be easy for new providers to enter the market.

    Free markets work well for grocery stores. If one chain gets greedy or selfish, a competitor can build something a few blocks away and customers can go there next time. All grocery stores do a good job with everything the average consumer can see. (Still need regulation for food safety and treatment of workers.)

    Compare this to Phone software. There are exactly two venders in the entire world – Apple and Android. If you don’t like one, it costs a thousand dollars to see what the other is like. If the other has the same problem, you are SOL.

    If the three conditions above are not met, there is no free market. As Apple users we have all been hurt by Microsoft’s behavior. And we all remember their claims that the free market chose them and governments should not interfere with their licencing schemes. There is no victory in replacing one anti-competitive company with another.

  2. Apple’s fee was never intended to be for the payment mechanism, but rather for sales made within the App Store. So maybe Apple should allow any payment mechanism, as long as the SALE is made by the RETAILER (Apple) who receives 100% of all proceeds, and then pays the VENDOR (developer) their wholesale price – which the RETAILER (Apple) had marked-up by 20-40% to achieve their RETAIL price.

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