Spotify has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Union, alleging that the company’s App Store conduct stifles competition and hampers consumer choice.
In a blog post on Wednesday, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said that by charging a 30 percent tax on in-app purchases, Apple forces rival streaming services to compete with Apple Music.
“In recent years, 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,” Ek wrote. “After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition.”
Ek said that if Spotify were to pay Apple's tax, it "would force us to artificially inflate the price of our Premium membership well above the price of Apple Music."
However, if it doesn’t pay the commission, Apple then imposes “a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions” that give Apple an unfair advantage over its competitors. Ek noted that Apple “routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades.”
"Let me be clear that this is not a Spotify-versus-Apple issue," Ek continued. "We want the same fair rules for companies young and old, large and small. It is about supporting and nurturing the healthy ecosystem that made our two companies successful in the first place."
Leveling the playing field
Spotify’s antitrust argument comes less than a week after Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled a policy proposal highlighting the need to break up big tech companies. The proposal raised the same main concern brought up by Spotify in its complaint -- that large tech companies engage in behaviors that prevent smaller companies from flourishing.
“We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors, smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power that they can undermine our democracy,” Warren wrote.
At South by Southwest over the weekend, Warren explained that breaking up big tech companies would also entail breaking up Apple and the App Store.
"Either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time," she said in an interview with the Verge.