Spotify cites difficulties getting updated app approved by Apple, alleges competition-based motives (Updated)
Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2016, 14:40
Category: App Store, Apple, Apple Music, Developer, iOS, Legal, News
Apple may be playing its gatekeeper card a little too closely where Spotify is concerned.
The audio streaming provider said Apple is making it harder for the streaming music company to compete by blocking a new version of its iPhone app.
In a letter sent this week to Apple’s top lawyer, Spotify says Apple is “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers” by rejecting an update to Spotify’s iOS app.
The letter stated that Apple had turned down the new version of the Spotify app while citing “business model rules” and demanded that Spotify use Apple’s billing system if “Spotify wants to use the app to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions.”
The letter was sent by Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez to Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell on June 26 and suggests that Spotify intends to use the standoff as to enforce Apple’s rules governing subscription services that use its App store.
Spotify has distributed copies of the letter to some Congressional staff in Washington, D.C. Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Apple, Amazon and Google for what she called anticompetitive practices; Warren said that “Apple has long used its control of iOS to squash competition in music.”
Spotify declined to comment while Apple has yet to respond to request for comment.
Spotify still has a commanding lead in the subscription music race. In March, it said it had 30 million paying subscribers; this month, Apple said it has 15 million paid subscribers for Apple Music.
Not surprisingly, Apple has refuted Spotify’s claims.
In a letter sent to Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez on Friday, Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell rebutted the streaming music service’s June 26 allegations that Apple is “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers” by rejecting a recent update to Spotify’s iOS app. “We find it troubling that you are asking for exemptions to the rules we apply to all developers and are publicly resorting to rumors and half-truths about our service,” Sewell wrote in a letter to Spotify.
Spotify has cited that Apple’s App Store approval process has been slow to intrusive where its app has been concerned. This, in turn, would give Apple 30 percent of its revenue based on this. Spotify has long charged an additional $2.99 for in-app subscriptions to avoid that “App Store tax” ). Gutierrez characterized this as anticompetitive. “It continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple’s previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify,” he wrote.
Apple offered the following rebuttal:
“Our guidelines apply equally to all app developers, whether they are game developers, e-book sellers, video-streaming services or digital music distributors; and regardless of whether or not they compete against Apple. We did not alter our behavior or our rules when we introduced our own music streaming service or when Spotify became a competitor,” Sewell explains. “Ironically, it is now Spotify that wants things to be different by asking for preferential treatment from Apple.”
Finally, Sewell stated that “There is nothing in Apple’s conduct that ‘amounts to a violation of applicable antitrust laws.’ Far from it,” Sewell, wrote after wryly observing that not only has Apple’s platform generated “hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental revenue to Spotify” but that the Spotify App currently in the App Store is still in violation of Apple’s guidelines. “I would be happy to facilitate an expeditious review and approval of your app as soon as you provide us with something that is compliant with the App Store’s rules,” he quipped in the letter.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.