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Apple could face a whopping $539 million fine over Spotify’s antitrust complaint

According to a Sunday morning report from the Financial Times, regulators slapped Apple with a €500 million (about $539 million USD) fine after looking into a complaint from Spotify. The complaint alleged that Apple’s policies stop iPhone apps from informing users about cheaper alternatives to Apple’s music service.

The problem boils down to Apple’s push to keep apps and users within its App Store payment system. Spotify raised concerns in 2019 that Apple’s rules were stifling competition against Apple Music, which led to an EU investigation the following year. The EU narrowed down its objections to Apple’s refusal to allow developers to link out to their own subscription sign-ups within their apps — a policy that Apple changed in 2022 after facing regulatory pressure in Japan.

$539 million might seem hefty, but the EU was considering a much larger fine of nearly $40 billion (or 10 percent of Apple’s annual global turnover) when it updated its objections last year. In 2020, Apple was initially fined over a billion dollars, but French authorities reduced that to about $366 million after the company appealed.

An Apple rep, Emma Wilson, told The Verge via email that they’re “not commenting on speculation” and pointed to previous statements by another Apple spokesperson, Hannah Smith. Smith had said in February last year that the company hoped the Commission would drop the case, which she claimed “has no merit.” European Commission spokesperson Lea Zuber declined to comment.

Spotify’s filing marks the first time an antitrust complaint against the App Store has been publicly lodged with the EU. However, companies have been criticizing the so-called Apple tax since it was introduced shortly after the App Store’s launch in 2011.

It’s not certain how far Spotify’s complaint against Apple will go, but the EU has been pretty aggressive on antitrust issues lately. In 2017, Google got hit with a €2.4 billion fine for issues with its shopping business, and in 2018, it was fined €4.3 billion for complaints about stifling competition in Android.