Apple given fourth €5m fine by the Netherlands' antitrust watchdog over App Store dispute

Apple given fourth €5m fine by the Netherlands' antitrust watchdog over App Store dispute
By Reuters

The Dutch antitrust watchdog handed Apple a €5 million fine on Monday, the fourth such fine it's been issued for failing to allow software application makers in the Netherlands to use non-Apple payment methods for dating apps on the App Store.

The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has been levying weekly fines of €5 million on Apple since the company missed a January 15 deadline to make changes ordered by the watchdog.

Apple's app-store payment policies, in particular its requirement that app developers exclusively use Apple's payment system with commissions of up to 30 per cent, have come under scrutiny by antitrust officials and lawmakers in several countries, most recently the United States.

Apple asserts in posts on its websites that it has complied with the ACM's December order, which found it was abusing a dominant market position and had to change.

But the Dutch watchdog repeated on Monday that Apple had not complied, and was putting "unnecessary and unreasonable" conditions on dating app developers.

The ACM singled out a requirement that developers who want to use non-Apple payment methods must submit a new app to the App Store to do so, and then convince their customers to switch.

Apple pushback

Apple, which says non-Apple payment methods pose a security risk, did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

The Coalition for App Fairness (CAF), which represents developers including Tinder owner Match Group, said Apple's strategy is to delay reforming its app store as long as possible, and to figure out the minimal amount of reform antitrust officials will accept.

"Every year of delay is another $25 billion [€22 billion] in revenue" for Apple, said CAF representative Damien Geradin.

"Wouldn't you spend a couple of million on lawyers if you can go on for another couple of years?"

On January 15, Apple said it had complied with the Dutch regulator's decision, but the regulator responded that the company had not made changes and had only said it would.

In a February 3 statement, Apple had described how developers could implement alternative payment methods, but the ACM said the company had not given it enough information to assess what had changed.

Apple says it still intends to charge a 27 per cent commission on any in-app payments it does not process, only slightly below the 30 per cent it charges on those it does process.

An ACM spokesperson declined to comment on whether that is acceptable.