Apple comes out swinging against antitrust investigation, blasts companies that ‘want a free ride’

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Apple.logo.paris.store
The Apple logo outside the Paris, France Apple Store.
Photo: Josh Davidson for Cult of Mac

Apple says that it is disappointed to be targeted in two new antitrust investigations by the European Union. The two antitrust investigations, into both the App Store and Apple Pay, were announced Tuesday.

“It’s disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else,” Apple told Reuters in a statement. “We don’t think that’s right — we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed.”

As I wrote this morning, the number of antitrust complaints leveled against Apple has ramped up in recent years. On Tuesday, the latest of these was announced as coming from Japanese tech company Rakuten, which owns an e-reader company called Kobo, that’s featured in the App Store. Rakuten is the latest company to hit out at Apple for the 30% cut it takes via the App Store. As a result, Rekuten does not sell e-books directly through the App Store, which has impacted its business.

“It appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement Tuesday.

Apple hits back at antitrust complaint

Apple is coming out swinging against accusations that it abuses its dominant position in the tech industry. Last year, it hit back at Spotify’s complaint that Apple is being anti-competitive by charging a cut of App Store purchases. “Apple connects Spotify to our users,” Apple argued at the time. “We provide the platform by which users download and update their app. We share critical software development tools to support Spotify’s app building. And we built a secure payment system — no small undertaking — which allows users to have faith in in-app transactions. Spotify is asking to keep all those benefits while also retaining 100 percent of the revenue.”

Apple doesn’t go into that level of depth against Rekuten in today’s comment. But a lot of that argument likely covers Apple’s take on this entire issue. Ultimately, Apple views what it has done as building a platform that gives developers the ability to reach millions of people around the world. It therefore feels entitled to get a cut of money generated via the platform.

Whether the European Commission feels the same remains to be seen. The investigation is currently ongoing. However, European officials have been outspoken about their desire to go after tech companies that break the rules.