Yet another country finds App Store rules are anti-competitive

Yet another country finds App Store rules anti-competitive

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App Store
This isn't looking good for Apple.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Antitrust investigators in the Netherlands are the latest to determine that Apple’s App Store rules over in-app payments are anti-competitive. Authorities ordered Cupertino to make changes, sources say, but did not issue fines.

The decision follows a similar ruling in South Korea in late August. It became the first country to tell Apple (and Google) that they must accept third-party payment systems in their app marketplaces.

Dutch regulators say call App Store anti-competitive

“The Dutch antitrust authority has found that Apple’s rules requiring software developers to use its in-app payment system are anti-competitive and ordered it to make changes,” reports Reuters, citing four sources.

The Dutch investigation first began in 2019 and included a complaint made by Match Group, owner of the Tinder app. Match Group argued that Apple’s rules prevent it from communicating directly with its customers.

The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) reportedly informed Apple of its decision last month. “ACM has not levied a fine against Apple, but demanded changes to the in-app payment system,” according to Reuters.

The ACM reportedly said the decision is still under legal review. (It is expected to publish its decision this year.) Apple apparently asked for an injunction that blocks publication of the ruling during its appeal.

App Store under fire

This follows a long line of complaints and investigations into the way in which Apple runs the App Store. The government probes typically focus on in-app purchases and the 15% to 30% cut Apple takes from all developer revenues.

A number of countries continue to pursue antitrust investigations against Apple and other tech giants. Some already took steps that force Apple to make big App Store changes.

In addition to the ruling in South Korea, Apple in early September agreed to relax App Store rules for “reader” apps like Audible, Netflix and Spotify to close an investigation carried out by the Japan Fair Trade Commission.

The European Commission launched an ongoing antitrust investigation into the App Store last year. Apple also has come under attack from third-party developers who demand fairer rules.

Apple is losing

In August, Apple agreed to create a $100 million fund for small app-makers and to make changes to several App Store policies to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by developers.

In September, a U.S. judge brought an end to Apple’s battle with Epic Games by ruling that Apple must allow developers to integrate third-party payment systems into their apps and games.

Whichever way Apple spins it, it’s clear that the company is fighting a losing battle when it comes to its in-app payment policies. And the longer it drags on, the worse it looks for Cupertino and its approach to developers.