Spotify recently complained (again) that Apple is using unfair business practices in its app store to disadvantage Apple Music competitors. Apple is refusing to approve an update to the Spotify iOS app that apparently uses a billing method Apple doesn’t like. Today Apple attorney Bruce Sewell fired back at Spotify, saying that the rules in the app store are the same for everybody, whether that means music apps or gaming apps.
At issue is the Spotify subscription streaming music service that’s delivered through the Spotify app. Apple requires subscription apps like Spotify to use the iTunes billing system to sell the subscription, and to pay Apple an up-to-30% cut (in this case 3 bucks) for the privilege. Apple won’t allow developers like Spotify to sell the subscription from within the app, or to point customers to some other system to pay for it. Apple built the store (Sewell argues) so Apple makes the rules and Apple gets its cut.
Spotify has cried foul over this rule (which the Google Play store doesn’t have) for a long time. It has typically passed the $3 billing fee onto customers, while encouraging customers to buy their subscriptions outside the Apple system.
So, Apple probably isn’t violating the letter of the law or using its app store contract to discriminate against Spotify. But Spotify may have a point that Apple’s rules—set by a company that controls a billion connected devices and offers its own music subscription service—sound a little like anti-trust.