Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge
More companies are vocalizing their support for an antitrust case against Apple filed in the EU yesterday. Both Match Group, the owner of dating apps like Tinder and Hinge, as well as Epic Games, which created Fortnite, issued statements last night in support.
“Apple is a partner, but also a dominant platform whose actions force the vast majority of consumers to pay more for third-party apps that Apple arbitrarily defines as ‘digital services,’” a Match Group spokesperson said, adding that various industries, including dating, have to forfeit 30 percent on their in-app revenue to Apple. “We welcome the opportunity to discuss this with Apple and create an equitable distribution of fees across the entire App Store, as well as with interested parties in the EU and in the U.S.”
Yesterday, the EU opened two antitrust investigations against Apple, one of which intends to look into Apple’s practice taking a 30 percent cut of revenue from in-app purchases made through the App Store. Spotify claims Apple uses its App Store to stifle innovation and limit consumer choice in favor of its own Apple Music service. Rakuten, which also pushed for the investigation, alleges that it’s anti-competitive for Apple to take a 30 percent commission on ebooks sold through the App Store while promoting its own Apple Books service.
“It’s disappointing the European Commission is advancing baseless complaints from a handful of companies who simply want a free ride, and don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else,” said an Apple spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “We don’t think that’s right — we want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed.”
In Match Group’s case, Apple takes a cut of revenue from daters who upgrade or purchase subscription products through the app. Tinder, for example, offers a la carte features and subscription plans from within the app. Epic Games pays a 30 percent cut for items players buy within the game. Not all apps have to give Apple a cut, however. Ride-sharing apps, in particular, have been exempted as well as Airbnb. Certain video streaming services like Amazon Prime Video have also received a special deal in which they don’t have to give a cut of revenue for individual purchases, like a movie or TV show rental.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney hinted at these side agreements with Apple in a tweet about the case yesterday, saying that Epic “won’t seek nor accept a special deal just for ourselves.”
Here Apple speaks of a level playing field. To me, this means: All iOS developers are free to process payments directly, all users are free to install software from any source. In this endeavor, Epic won’t seek nor accept a special deal just for ourselves.https://t.co/A4sT1eMKMm
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) June 17, 2020
Smaller app developers have also expressed their concerns over Apple’s practices. David Heinemeier Hansson, the CTO of Basecamp and the new Hey email service, called Apple “gangsters” because it rejected a bug fix update and asked the company in a phone call to commit to adding an in-app subscription to prevent it from being removed. “I was taken aback by how brazen that threat was,” Heinemeier Hansson told The Verge. “I thought you were supposed to wrap the threats in euphemisms or something. But it was pretty clear.”
I had to remove content that I offered for free and put it behind the paywall … Apple would never confirm if those changes would suffice, but I did it and the app was not removed. Months pass in this limbo.
Then, Daily Dictionary was featured as App of the Day in February.
— Benjamin Mayo (@bzamayo) June 16, 2020
In an email to The Verge, Apple said that it requires all developers to follow strict guidelines around business models. The company declined to comment specifically on Hey but said that App Store review guidelines require an in-app purchase option if an app wants to offer access to content purchased on another platform. Apple suggested the call to Hey’s team was typical and that it always works with developers to bring them into compliance. Apple also told Protocol that the app shouldn’t have been approved in the first place.