Spotify files antitrust complaint against Apple over its 'app tax'

James Cook
Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek - 2015 Getty Images

Spotify has declared war on Apple over the fees it charges for access to the iPhone App Store in a move that that could have far-reaching consequences for the media and technology industries.  

In a formal competition complaint to Brussels, the Swedish music streaming giant 's founder Daniel Ek accused Apple of abusing its dominance of the smartphone market to "deliberately disadvantage" competitors.  

The music streaming business has also complained that its service is locked out of Apple devices including the HomePod smart speaker and Apple Watch.

Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez said he believed the business was losing out commercially because of Apple’s policy of taking a 30 pc cut from apps downloaded via its App Store.

“We feel confident in the economic analysis we have submitted to the Commission that we could have done better than we have done so far,” he said.

The complaint is the latest sign of growing resistance to Apple from companies which offer music and video streaming and gaming services available via its App Store. 

In a blog post, Daniel Ek wrote on Wednesday that “Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience—essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”

Mr Ek said that Spotify had attempted to resolve the dispute directly with Apple, but decided to approach antitrust regulators in Europe to intervene.

A spokesman for the European Commission said that “the Commission has received a complaint by Spotify, which we are assessing under our standard procedures.” Apple declined to comment.

The antitrust complaint adds to a growing backlash against the tolls Apple and Google charge to developers using their app stores.

Apple's policy of taking a cut from apps distributed via its service forced Spotify to increase monthly subscriptions for premium sales via the Apple App Store from £9.99 to £12.99. Around the same time, Apple launched a competing music streaming service for £9.99 per month, it added.

Spotify has since pulled the option to subscribe to its premium service from its iPhone app.

EU regulators are also increasingly concerned about how technology platforms control the online ecosystem and may rig the game to their own advantage.