In late June, the European Commission (EC) opened several formal cases investigating Apple’s mobile payment technology (Apple Pay) and various third-party and user agreements to determine whether the tech giant’s practices and policies infringe on competition rights and abuse market power. Specifically, the Commission will investigate the company’s terms and conditions integrating the payment feature into merchant applications and websites, and the imposition of its proprietary in-app purchase system and accompanying restrictions. The latter prevents third-party developers from informing their users of cheaper alternative purchases available outside the app. The investigations follow complaints made by Spotify, a music streaming service competitor, and an e-book/audiobook distributor competitor, according to the EC’s press release.
In a statement, EC Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said that the Commission needs to allay fears that Apple’s “gatekeeper role” in the distribution of apps and content to users does not distort market competition. The impetus, she said, was to ensure that “Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices.”
Apple is one of the latest tech targets to experience regulatory scrutiny. Facebook, Amazon, and Google are facing antitrust inquiries by EU member states, the European Commission, and the United States’ Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission.