Spotify files antitrust complaint to Brussels against Apple

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

Apple wields its App Store as a cudgel to stifle innovation, weaken competition and unfairly tax its rivals, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a post Wednesday, after the world's biggest music streaming service filed a complaint with European regulators.

Spotify's complaint against Apple arrived on the same day an expert panel convened by the British government called for a reinvigorated approach to antitrust enforcement, targeting tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.

"Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple's payment system, including upgrading from our Free to our Premium service", Elk said in a statement. He said Spotify is asking for three commitments: Services in the App Store, including Apple Music, should be subject to the same rules; consumers should have choice over which payment systems to use for the apps; and app stores should be blocked from controlling communications between services and their customers. A representative for the European Commission confirmed it received a complaint from Spotify, saying the body is assessing it under its standard procedures.

Apple has been contacted for comment. Apple was ordered in 2016 to repay $15 billion in taxes to Ireland by European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has also slapped Google with multibillion-dollar antitrust fines. Ek says that if the company doesn't comply with Apple's tax, it faces "a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions", on its app. Ek added that Apple "routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades", locking competitors out of Apple devices such as Siri, Apple Watch and Homepod. Ek says that if Spotify were to pay this tax it would be forced to "artificially inflate" its prices "well above the price of Apple Music", causing harm to the company's business.

Under App store rules, Spotify said, content-based apps could not include buttons or external links to pages with production information, discounts or promotions and faced difficulties fixing bugs.

The final complaint is increasingly restrictive conditions on how app makers can communicate with subscribers who sign up using the iPhone app.

We aren't seeking special treatment.

"We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions-including Apple Music", he said.

"Let me be clear that this is not a Spotify-versus-Apple issue", Ek concluded. It is about supporting and nurturing the healthy ecosystem that made our two companies successful in the first place.