Apple is renowned for its ability to amass thousands of talented engineers, millions of users, and billions in cash-on-hand. While nowhere near prolific in this particular growth sector, it’s also gotten pretty good at attracting anti-trust complaints.
As Bloomberg reports, Dutch officials opened an investigation into the computing giant’s alleged preferential treatment of its own products in the walled garden of the App Store. Henk Don, a member of the board on the Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) wrote in the investigation notice:
App providers depend on Apple and Google for offering apps to users. In the market study, ACM has received indications from app providers, which seem to indicate that Apple abuses its position in the App Store.
ACM is calling for app developers to write in with their experiences. The probe itself may also encompass Google’s Play Store as well, although its Apple counterpart tends to exert more control over what apps are allowed to be featured in its marketplace.
Swedish music-streaming platform Spotify filed a similar antitrust complaint with the European Commission against Apple last month. Apple Music, which competes directly with Spotify, was given “an unfair advantage at every turn,” according to embittered CEO Daniel Ek.
Allegations of “monopolistic” pricing is also at the heart of Apple v Pepper — a class action dating back to 2011 — which the Supreme Court allowed to move forward to oral arguments last November.
Less an investigation than the looming specter of one, 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren has also made breaking up big tech a key plank of her presidential platform. Whether she clinches the nomination or not, campaigning hard on that issue is likely to spur action from other candidates and sitting lawmakers.
Previous antitrust complaints have been, at best, a mixed bag. In 2014, Apple beat cries of monopolistic practices related to its software updates to iPods after a decade in the courts. Two years later, the company coughed up $628 million over price-fixing after it was found to have colluded with publishers on the cost of ebooks. Is the App Store doomed? It’s unlikely, but a wealth of litigation may pressure the company to change its terms, regardless of outcomes.