Apple faces €5.5 billion lawsuit from Netherlands over its app store

The tech giant’s 30 percent cut of developer earnings is facing scrutiny around the world.

Hans Kouwenhoven / reuters

A Dutch foundation has hit Apple with a lawsuit over the App Store’s developer fees, seeking €5.5 billion euro in damages for what it alleges is monopolistic behavior. In a press release, the Dutch Consumer Competition Claims Foundation stated it was filing a "collective claim" for damages, on behalf of any iPhone or iPad owners in the EU who have downloaded a paid app or made purchases within an app.

Suing Apple for its app store policies on behalf of consumers— instead of developers — might seem like an unusual move on the Dutch foundation’s part. Most of the scrutiny over the tech giant’s so-called “Apple tax” has focused on its deleterious impact on the profits of developers. Just this past January, Apple agreed to settle a class-action settlement by US developers for $100 million.

The Consumer Competition Claims Foundation alleges that Apple’s developer fees were passed on to consumers, in the form of higher prices. “App developers are forced to pass on to consumers the increased costs caused by Apple’s monopolistic practices and unfair terms,” wrote the foundation in its press release.

The foundation is asking EU consumers who purchased an app in Apple’s App Store or made an in-app purchase since September 2009 to join its complaint. The lawsuit is set to be filed in the Amsterdam District Court.

This isn’t the first time Apple is taking heat from Dutch authorities. Apple has yet to comply with a January order from Dutch regulators that requires the company to offer third-party payment options for dating app customers. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is fining Apple €5 million for every week it doesn’t follow through with the order. Dutch regulators have already fined Apple more than €50 million and counting.

But according to TechCrunch, there’s a sign of a potential compromise. Apple is working on an amended proposal of its dating app policy, which will be reviewed by ACM. But even if the two parties reach a consensus, Apple will soon have much larger battles to fight in the EU. The EU is working on finalizing the Digital Markets Act, which will (among a number of other anti-competitive measures) require companies like Apple and Google to allow alternatives for in-app payments.