The bill for Apple’s Dutch antitrust standoff over dating apps’ payment methods has increased by a further €5 million – and now stands at €15 million, the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) confirmed today.
The penalty relates to a competition authority order requiring Apple to allow local dating apps to use third-party payment providers for digital content sales, rather than requiring those apps to use Apple’s own payment infrastructure, which incurs on a commission fee to Apple.
The iPhone maker has been fighting the Dutch order since last year and continues to appeal against it. But last month — as a first deadline for complying with the threat of a penalty loomed — it agreed to allow apps to connect to alternative payment technology, saying it would be introducing two “new optional rights” exclusively for dating apps in China. Netherlands App Store. they may provide additional payment processing options to users as required by the order.
Apple’s compliance claim last month, however, was quickly met by a fine from the ACM for non-compliance – as the regulator apparently took issue with the fact that Apple dragged its feet to meet all of the order’s requirements.
The exact details remain unclear as parts of a court order related to Apple’s challenge to the ACM order were not revealed, so the competition regulator said it is limited in what it can discuss.
Meanwhile, Apple has focused its own public-facing communications on this saga by attacking the order — claiming that the changes “may compromise the user experience and create new threats to the privacy and security of user data,” as it put it in a past statement. . month.
The information provided to local developers who want to use non-Apple payment technology in their dating apps also appears to be as dismal as possible, with Apple warning that its users may be excluded from certain apps. The store features and suggesting that they will have to take on additional responsibilities to handle issues that may arise around such sales, such as support with refunds, purchase history, and subscription management.
In an extra kicker last week, Apple also revealed that it intended to charge a 27% commission fee on any sales of dating apps that use non-Apple payment technology — which is a near-no reduction in the commission fee. 30% what Apple normally charges in -app purchases.
So a small discount on the standard fee combined with extra customer service responsibilities plus some extra technical expenses doesn’t exactly sound like windfall for qualifying apps – suggesting Apple is trying to make it as difficult and expensive as possible. for local developers to use third-party payment systems.
This, in turn, implies that Apple’s approach is to opt for false compliance – going against the spirit, if not the literal letter of the order of the ACM, making it very unappealing for developers to assume the “rights”. (Although, the latest ACM penalty suggests Apple isn’t even getting to the core of what the regulator requires in the order.)
Asked about the details of these ongoing compliance issues, the competition authority told Ploonge that Apple has not provided full and complete information – which presumably means that it feels unable to properly assess whether or not it is compliant.
“ACM has not yet received any information from Apple itself about the changes that Apple says it has already implemented to fulfill the order subject to periodic monetary penalties. According to said order, Apple is obliged to do so. Because Apple has not provided us with such timely or complete information, Apple continues to fail to meet the requirements set forth in the order. As such, Apple must pay a third fine, meaning that the total amount Apple must currently pay is €15 million,” a spokesperson said.
“Based on the information on Apple’s website, we are unable to assess whether or not Apple complies with the substantive requirements set forth in the order subject to periodic fines,” they added. “ACM is disappointed with Apple’s behavior and actions. We expect Apple to meet the ACM requirements. Furthermore, these requirements have been confirmed by the courts.”
Apple was contacted for comment – but so far has not responded.
While a subset of apps in a single relatively small European market might not seem like a big deal to a money-mining tech giant, the company’s App Store commission fee model now faces developer complaints and regulatory pressure from around the world. . world.
It also means that Apple likely sees a much greater risk to its business if it quickly makes sweeping and significant changes that cut its core App Store revenue model based on the App Store revenue model, rather than dragging by market, creating complexity and doubts for local developers and generally spinning. this process into something slow and painful.
The ACM said the penalty for Apple’s non-compliance will continue to rise each week – until it reaches a maximum of €50 million.
But of course, that’s still a buck for a company with a market cap of $2,817 TR… So basically, Apple can afford to make this difficult and bland.
That said, several markets in Europe already have – or are in the process of – revamping their competition laws to address the unique challenge posed by tech giants, such as the EU’s Digital Markets Act proposal for ex-ante rules for so-called ” gatekeepers” of the Internet. “; or Germany’s faster intervention powers (already legislated) against platforms with “primary importance in all markets” that are now being enforced against Google.
Germany’s Federal Cartel Office also has an open case investigating Apple’s App Store – which could also accelerate if it confirms the company meets the local threshold for special competition measures.
The UK is also working on a pro-competition reform that, given parliamentary time, will introduce rules tailored to tech giants that are deemed to have “significant market status”.
So regional lawmakers are rapidly increasing their powers to target platforms that simply ignore rules they don’t like.