After a decade of worsening relations with Apple, Swedish music streaming giant Spotify took the extraordinary step today of filing a formal antitrust complaint with the European Commission, “after trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple,” according to CEO Daniel Ek.
Apple controls what’s allowed into its app store and how those programs can interact with its users, but it also competes with streaming music providers directly via Apple Music. This central tension gives Tim Cook’s behemoth what Ek calls “an unfair advantage at every turn”—whether by disallowing apps from promoting discounts, or by imposing the so-called “Apple tax.”
Revenue generated by premium users who paid for the ad-free tier of Spotify through the app store, according to Ek, was subsidizing Apple with 30 percent of that fee. The scale of the “Apple tax,” he claims, forced his company to raise prices above the intended $9.99 per month at the same time that Apple itself was launching a competing service at that price point. He further claims that this tax isn’t even applied across the board—singling out Uber and Deliveroo as examples of free riders.
Since launching in October of 2008, Spotify has grown its user base to an estimated 207 million, though it only hit profitability last month. Spotify and Apple have previously clashed over the latter’s failure to approve an app update to the former. A similar antitrust case about potential overreach in Apple’s walled garden—Apple v. Pepper—is still pending in the US Supreme Court.
We’ve reached out to both companies and will update if we hear back.