EU fines Apple nearly $2 billion for 'blocking' alternative music apps

This the third-largest fine from the EU, and its first directed towards Apple.

REUTERS / Reuters

Following months of speculation, the European Commission has officially handed down its fine to Apple, and it's much higher than initially expected. Apple is on the hook to pay €1.8 billion ($1.95 billion) for restricting alternative music streaming apps on the App Store — the EU's first fine for Apple and its third-largest ever announced. It follows an investigation initially opened in 2020 following Spotify's filed complaint alleging Apple took steps to suppress the music service due to competition with iTunes and Apple Music.

The Commission has announced "that Apple bans music streaming app developers from fully informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app and from providing any instructions about how to subscribe to such offers." The practice, known as anti-steering, is illegal under EU antitrust laws.

The investigation found that Apple banned app developers from telling users the price of any subscriptions on the internet or the difference in price between in-app and outside purchases. The company also prevented developers from including information about or links to alternative subscription purchasing pages on their websites or in emails. Apple has engaged in these practices for nearly 10 years and might have caused iOS users to pay more for music streaming subscriptions than necessary due to the fees it imposes (that developers then factor into their prices). The Commission found Apple's actions also "led to non-monetary harm," creating a more frustrating user experience.

The news follows February rumors that Apple would be hit with a fine of €500 million ($542.6 million) due to its antitrust App Store policies — less than a third of the final number. The European Commission claims it set the fine at €1.8 billion to be "sufficiently deterrent" to prevent Apple repeating its actions. However, Apple plans to appeal the decision.