EU chief says Apple would rather pay fines than face App Store regulation

EU chief says Apple would rather pay fines than face App Store regulation


App Store
Apple motion for a delay has been denied.
Image: Apple/Cult of Mac

The European Union’s head of digital policy believes Apple would rather continue to pay fines than accept new App Store regulation.

Cupertino is currently fighting new rules in the Netherlands that say dating app developers should be allowed to use third-party payment systems. EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager called Apple’s behavior an example of how “gatekeepers” try to circumvent the rules.

Apple prefers periodic fines

The Netherlands isn’t the only country that has taken steps to loosen Apple’s tight grip on the App Store — and on app developers. South Korea first ruled Apple must allow alternative payment systems. And regulators in other countries continue to explore similar laws.

Unsurprisingly, Apple has been less than welcoming to any changes. Last month, Apple confirmed it will appeal the decision of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). And the company’s half-hearted efforts to comply with new laws in the meantime are not considered satisfactory by the ACM.

Vestager said this week during a speech on the digital economy and privacy that “effective enforcement, which includes the Commission having sufficient resources to do so, will be key to ensure compliance,” according to TechCrunch.

‘Gatekeepers’ will try to avoid the rules

“Some gatekeepers may be tempted to play for time or try to circumvent the rules,” Vestager added. “Apple’s conduct in the Netherlands these days may be an example. As we understand it, Apple essentially prefers paying periodic fines, rather than comply with a decision of the Dutch Competition Authority on the terms and conditions for third parties to access its App Store.”

Vestager’s incoming Digital Markets Act would enforce stricter rules that powerful companies like Apple could not avoid. She is calling on the U.S. to align with — or at least support — the EU’s push for tougher regulation designed to make the App Store and other marketplaces fairer.

Vestager noted that several bills already progressing through Congress share many of the EU’s proposals.

“This is very encouraging because it means there is a great degree of global consensus,” she said. “The impact of our digital legislation will depend as much on what happens outside the EU’s borders, as within.”

Apple can’t ignore new rules forever

The EU’s determination to ensure companies like Apple and Google cannot maintain the control they currently exert over their marketplaces is yet another indication that changes will have to be made eventually. Apple may fight them now and swallow the fines, but it cannot do that forever.

Apple’s refusal to comply is seen as a kick in the teeth by many app developers who write software for the company’s platforms. Microsoft, on the other hand, took the opposite approach and proactively introduced big changes to its own store. Those should make the Microsoft Store a much fairer place for third-party app-makers.


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