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Spotify welcomes Apple App Store concessions, but sets out its other demands

By | Published on Friday 3 September 2021


Spotify has expanded a little on its response to the App Store rule concessions announced by Apple in the last week, explaining why – while welcome – those concessions do not go far enough. Or, in the words of Spotify boss Daniel Ek, “this is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t solve the problem”.

Apple announced this week that, from next year, it will allow so called ‘reader apps’ – such as Spotify – to include a link within their iOS apps that direct users to alternative payment options. Alternative, that is, to taking in-app payments, where app makers are obliged to use Apple’s commission-charging transactions platform.

Spotify, of course, has been very vocal in recent years about its opposition to various rules enforced by the Apple App Store, arguing that the tech giant uses the rules to give its own streaming service an unfair advantage. The rule moaned about most loudly is that obligation to use Apple’s transactions platform for any in-app payments. Restrictions on sign-posting alternative ways to pay outside the app is then a secondary moan.

The latter is being addressed by Apple as a result of an investigation into the App Store rules by the Fair Trade Commission in Japan. The rule change allowing app makers to link to other payment options is part of a settlement with the Japanese regulator, although it will apply globally.

That rule change followed another announced last week as part of a different settlement, in that case linked to a class action lawsuit pursued by app makers in the US. Apple will amend its rules to clarify that app-makers can also email users with information about how to make payments outside the iOS eco-system.

All of this addresses some of the issues previously raised by Spotify. Though – in a chart posted by the firm’s Chief Legal Officer yesterday – the streaming company notes that limitation to the rule change regarding in-app links, ie that it will only apply to ‘reader apps’.

Those are apps that provide access to content like books, podcasts, music and videos that has either been previously purchased or which is accessed via a subscription. So that covers Spotify and Netflix, but not the other high profile App Store rule critic, Fortnite maker Epic Games.

That limitation means that the rule changes announced this week are “narrow in scope”, Spotify argues. Which in turn means Spotify itself will be restricted in how it uses those new flexibilities. And not all of its allies in the “App Store Rules Are Wrong” camp will benefit. Nor might future manifestations of Spotify.

The aforementioned chart also lists some of the other changes Spotify would like to see, noting that all of those changes would be forced by the Open App Markets Act that was proposed by members of US Congress last month.

That includes the removal of the requirement to use Apple’s system for in-app payments, plus obligations on Apple to grant all app developers equal access to its platforms, and to not prioritise its own apps in its store or utilise business information gathered via said store to gain competitive advantage.

Adding his take on Apple’s announcements and his company’s demands chart, Ek said in his own tweet: “This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t solve the problem. App developers want clear, fair rules that apply to all apps. Our goal is to restore competition once and for all, not one arbitrary, self-serving step at a time. We will continue to push for a real solution”.