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US lawmakers approach Spotify about its Apple gripes

By | Published on Monday 7 October 2019


The Judiciary Committee of the US House Of Representatives has sought information from Spotify regarding the formal complaint it filed earlier this year with the European Union against its big rival Apple.

According to Reuters, Congress members have approached Spotify as part of their ongoing investigation into allegations of anti-competitive conduct that have been levelled at Apple, and other tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Spotify went big when it filed its competition complaint with the European Commission in March, launching a whole website to accompany it. A long time coming, the complaint listed various gripes about the way Apple controls access to customers who stream music via an iPhone or iPad, though the biggest moan was about the so called Apple tax.

That’s the 15-30% fee that Apple charges on digital subscriptions collected through an iOS app. It means that if companies like Spotify allow users to subscribe through their app, they have to pay 15-30% of any subscription money to Apple. With streaming music firms operating on such tight margins, they have to add this extra charge on top. Which then makes Spotify seem like it is more expensive to access than the Apple Music streaming service.

While Spotify can just not accept subscriptions via its iOS app – instead sending iPhone owners to its website to actually sign up – Apple rules say that it can’t overtly do that within the app itself. So Spotify just has to turn off premium sign-up functionality on the iOS platform and hope that users will realise they have to go to to upgrade to premium.

Apple has been pretty forthright in its response to Spotify’s EC complaint. It basically accuses its rival of wanting to build a music service on the back of its infrastructure, but not pay for the privilege. It also points out that the vast majority of iPhone owning Spotify subscribers did not sign up via the app, so are paying nothing to Apple. The tech giant also doesn’t ask for a cut of ad income for those iPhone owners using Spotify’s free option.

Reporting on US lawmakers taking an interest in Spotify’s Apple gripes, Reuters says that the “judiciary committee reached out to the music streaming service with broad requests for information, according to one source, who added the request to the company was narrowed in follow up telephone calls”.

The Congressional committee is not the only US entity looking into allegations of anti-competitive conduct against Apple, with Reuters adding that Spotify reps have also spoken to investigators at the US Department Of Justice and members of a ‘technology task force’ set up by the Federal Trade Commission.