back to article Not so nice, we investigated them twice: EU opens double whammy of inquiries into Apple's biz practices

In the words of Brenda from Bristol: Another one? Yes, afraid so. The European Commission has opened up a fresh investigation into Apple's business practices, this time focusing on the App Store and Apple Pay. The first investigation, prompted by complaints from Spotify and Rakuten (which is described solely as "an e-book and …

  1. DJV Silver badge

    The Register has asked Apple, Spotify, and Rakuten for comment.

    And no prizes for guessing which one is highly unlikely to respond!

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: The Register has asked Apple, Spotify, and Rakuten for comment.

      ‘Apple sent us a statement following publication of the article. “We follow the law in everything we do and we embrace competition at every stage because we believe it pushes us to deliver even better results.”’

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The Register has asked Apple, Spotify, and Rakuten for comment.

        We follow the law in everything we do and we embrace competition at every stage because we believe it pushes us to deliver even better results.”

        Yeah, yeah, sure. And the check is in the mail....

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: The Register has asked Apple, Spotify, and Rakuten for comment.

          The bit I was focusing on was "Apple sent us a statement"

      2. Grikath
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: The Register has asked Apple, Spotify, and Rakuten for comment.

        Yes... a most surprising and unexpected development there....

        One wonders what must have happened to have a PR/Legal drone fly over Vulture Central territory in blatant disregard of the strict No-Fly Zone that is usual from the Masters of Fruit..... Maybe they know they're in deep doodoo with this one and are desperately scrambling for all the sympathy they can get?

        Icon because...not quite...but close...

  2. gnasher729 Silver badge

    I don’t quite understand this

    This is like an independent car dealer complaining that Ford dealers can sell Ford cars cheaper because they don’t have to pay the manufacturers profit.

    1. Forget It
      Facepalm

      Re: I don’t quite understand this

      what about accessories and spare-parts though?

    2. Steve Foster

      Re: I don’t quite understand this

      More like 3rd-party manufacturers being obliged to sell their accessories (eg tyres, wiper blades, seat covers, fluffy dice, etc) for Ford vehicles through Ford dealers, and pay Ford a hefty fee for the privilege.

      Or, say, music companies being forced to sell their music (to be played in a Ford vehicle) through Ford dealers, and again, paying Ford a hefty fee for the privilege.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: I don’t quite understand this

        They are absolutely _not_ forced to sell through Apple. Netflix doesn't pay Apple a penny, for example. So this is like music companies having a choice to sell CDs through Ford dealers, or through their music stores, and Ford charges for CDs sold through Ford dealers, and not for CDs bought anywhere else.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I don’t quite understand this

          AFAIK Netflix had to negotiate that deal.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I don’t quite understand this

          > They are absolutely _not_ forced to sell through Apple.

          Apple are currently demanding that Hey add in-app purchases of their subscription service, or their app will be removed from the Apple app store: https://www.macrumors.com/2020/06/16/apple-threatens-to-remove-hey-from-app-store/

      2. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: I don’t quite understand this

        The vast majority of the music on my home system never went anywhere near Apple. Almost all is music I personally converted from vinyl and audiotapes and CDs over a period of decades as I was NOT going to buy that music again. I have, only a few years ago, finally decommissioned my LP records as the last of them are now on my music volume.

        Zero point zero of the movies on my system came from Apple; some were moved over from VHS and DVD, some were digital downloads purchased with DVD/BluRay discs. None came from Apple.

        But, hey, carry on.

        1. Tim99 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: I don’t quite understand this

          So, depending on where you are in the world, you probably abused Copyright and are possibly subject to criminal prosecution as well as a civil claim?

          1. Tim99 Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: I don’t quite understand this

            So, the downvoters think that ripping copyright holders off is OK...

            Where I live, penalties of a fine of up to AU$117,000 (~£64,000) and a term of imprisonment of up to five years are possible. For a company the maximum fine is 5 times that.

            I kept up with this as I used to write software - Some was Pro-bono and some was FOSS; but as I needed to eat, I charged for about 2/3rds of my stuff including "shrink-wrap". Perhaps, not surprisingly, the worst infringers were often in various levels of government and "not for profits". It was a little embarrassing when I was in a public area of one organization to see the registration details of a different group up on a screen. They would justify this by "lack of funds", or "we were just trying it out" (In spite of the unregistered version allowing 50 items and the FOSS versions 200, they would use another organization's key to input a few thousand). They seemed genuinely surprised that I wanted paying. A couple of them even said things like "we put 50 items in and saw how useful it was, so we 'borrowed' the registration key details from a friend in another organization to put more in" and one classic was: "We wrote our own, but yours was better, so we needed to export our stuff into yours".

            OK, I know music publishing companies are not our friends - I must have bought some Rolling Stones tracks on both 7" and 12" vinyl, audio cassette, CD and download, so I could (almost) be sympathetic...

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: I don’t quite understand this

      It is more like Pirelli being charged 30% for selling their tyres through the Ford dealer and not being able to inform the customer that they could buy the tyres for 30% less down the street.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple [claims the bill] would harm "user friendliness, data protection and the security of financial information."

    Funny way to say "Our profits"...

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Mushroom

    30% is outrageous

    Apps are what make a platform, and where mobes are concerned, it is what makes them more attractive than the competition.

    Apple is imposing a luxury tax on developers when they are the ones who bring value to the entire Apple ecosystem. What have I just read about HTC ? It has crap apps. Doesn't make me feel like buying a phone from them.

    As far as apps are concerned, Apple is just a facilitator. Yes, it provides the App Store, but don't try to make me believe that that is costing Apple $100Bn/year.

    The normal fee of an intermediary is 10%. That is what Apple should have the right to ask for.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: 30% is outrageous

      30% is supposed to cover not just distribution but also advertising costs. The real problem is the exclusivity clause.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 30% is outrageous

        and the "Advertising and promotion" you get for that extra 20% is really vaporous. Apples app store has crappy discovery, so unless you make it to the top of one of the categories you languish in obscurity. Apple puts barely any effort into promoting apps outside those algorithmic silos, and only for a tiny fraction of the apps listed. There are also a ton of crAPPS listed in the store. Many of those include Apple adware. So even accounting for the cost of vetting apps to reduce the number of malicious apps, the store remains a quagmire of user hostile design. Gatekeeping and rent seeking are more appropriate to categorize the Apple relationship to their app developers.

        While in principal having diverse and competitive choices for app stores would be warranted, the issues with app vetting and platform access make that a path of thorns. So I think limiting Apples compulsory take may be a better remedy. Though a Co-op app store would also have merits if it answered to both developers and consumers, and could let Apple shed the burden of supporting low traffic and low quality apps, and allow Apple and app developers to negotiate on more equitable terms were apple would have to offer more than just a digital listing to entice main stream devs in.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 30% is outrageous

      I know two wrongs don't make a right but it AFAIK, Google also charges 30% for purchases from the Play Store.

      Isn't Google (with Android) bigger than Apple in Europe?

      Either way, 30% is too high

      1. Anomalous Cowturd
        Pirate

        Re: 30% is outrageous

        Google don't prevent you loading apps from other sources, as far as I am aware. They hide the option inside the disabled by default "Developer Mode."

        It's easy to turn on the facility.

        1. Oh Matron! Silver badge

          Re: 30% is outrageous

          And there's nothing stopping you from side loading on iOS too. You just have to trust the developer certificate.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: 30% is outrageous

          Google doesn't also doesn't prevent companies from selling through other stores. Google simply copied the 30% from Apple having concluded that the market would bear it. But, it's also probably fair to say that there are more ad-funded apps on Android than on IOS, so Google is less focussed on app fees.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      30% is outrageous, but not for books

      As I'm writing a book, I had a look at what percentage a beginning author gets off the cover price.

      From what I can see of that world, the author getting 30% would be astonishing, "Luxury" in Yorkshire Men terms :).

      I'm not actually aiming at making a living off this book (it's more in the way of marketing), but that doesn't mean I am keen to sponsor gateway operators either, so I may end up self publishing.

      Anyone who has gone through this already?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: 30% is outrageous, but not for books

        I am not very knowledgeable about this, but I think the reason is that a book has a lot more work in its production than just the author's contributions. Manufacturing of the book (paper, printing, binding, artwork, etc.) is expensive. Illustrators may need to be paid as well, or editors. And there's shelf space in physical stores if they still do that. The real question would probably be how much the publishing company gets merely for marketing and profit and whether they are useful in that capacity. I'd imagine exact statistics on both are jealously guarded by publishers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 30% is outrageous, but not for books

          Manufacturing of the book (paper, printing, binding, artwork, etc.) is expensive. Illustrators may need to be paid as well, or editors. And there's shelf space in physical stores if they still do that.

          Ah, but here's the rub. Those percentages also apply to e-books, where duplications costs are miniscule.

          Sure, dead tree variants cost a lot more, but even there the percentages are ridiculous, and have all the happy feel of monopolies squeezing content creators just because they can (Google "Courtney does the math" to see just how uneven the distribution of burdens lie). I'm sure that if you're a top selling author you may be in a position to push a better deal, but by default you're rogered. Electronically, even more so.

    4. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: 30% is outrageous

      This is what happens when a successful company becomes so arrogant that they believe that whatever they do, people will just pay because it is "Apple".

      If anyone other than Apple (or a similar US tech company) were to take a 30% cut people would be screaming about profiteering. Look at all the flak direct against petrol stations when oil prices change.

      On streamed music Apple take a greater percentage cut than is returned to the artists.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 30% is outrageous

        people will just pay because it is "Apple".

        or "Google", who charge the same. They're all at it.

  5. itzumee

    I'm surprised that no-one has taken Apple to court over it's App Store practices - or is there a gagging clause in the App Store T+Cs ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The first rule of doing business with Apple: you are not allowed to talk about doing business with Apple.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The worm in the picture doesn't seem right to me

    Are you sure, El Reg, that worms dwelling inside apples have antennas and legs ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The worm in the picture doesn't seem right to me

      Looks more like a small Millipede. Not so much for the apple boring.

    2. Grikath

      Re: The worm in the picture doesn't seem right to me

      Dunno... it fits the company... centipedes whoopss... millipedes.. are ravenous poisonous predators, so........

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The worm in the picture doesn't seem right to me

      CentiPad.

  7. joe bloggs 6

    FTFY

    and we embrace and extinguish competition at every stage

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FTFY

      No, no, that's Microsoft's thing. Do keep up.

      :)

  8. karlkarl Silver badge

    Honestly, Apple not really doing anything wrong. I blame all the fsck(8)wits who tie themselves down to this foul stuff.

    It isn't defective by design. The users are!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not only Apple in the EU's sights

    Amazon is lined up for the EU Inquisition as well.

    Two mega US corps apparently doing evil. Where's the investigation into Google? Isn't 'Evil' Google's middle name.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Not only Apple in the EU's sights

      They'll do Google AFTER they have finished Google-ing for evidence in the first two cases.

      They're not silly :).

    2. kvothe
      Trollface

      Re: Not only Apple in the EU's sights

      Google aren't evil, look at their code of conduct...

      “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”

      Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-dont-be-evil/254019/

  10. chivo243 Silver badge

    I know why they take so much - The boxes are tough!

    Do you know what it costs to box up any apple product?* I have boxes that 15" powerbooks came in now holding CDs and DVDs, they have survived longer than any plastic bin I bought in the shop. I've moved house 3 times too!

    *When shipping, the cool apple box goes in a brown box for security!? They have a serious bill from Georgia Pacific, and we know Apple would never be so generous.

  11. iron Silver badge

    Holy flying pig Batman!

    Apple replied!

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Stopping apps from even mentioning that you can pay outside of the app store does seem to go against Apples statement that they embrace competition.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      It's unfortunately a popular restriction. I was recently writing an Amazon review and wanted to mention that a certain product is nice because they have open source firmware builds that are easily modifiable, and I linked to the manufacturer's site to show people where to find them. Amazon was not pleased. Stupid really because this manufacturer doesn't have their own store and all the purchase links on their site go to Amazon. I am allowed however to include Amazon links to completely different products; Amazon is not about to protect their sellers but they certainly will protect themselves.

  13. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    Business ethics and history

    Evidently Apple, Google et al are merely following a very old way of doing business in Ermerika. Old because was alive and being criticised in 1952.

    Read "The Space Merchants" by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth to see how much of the way Apple does business is new and original.

  14. Kev99

    I wonder if the EC will also look into Apple abandoning Intel chips for ARM chips and thereby forcing people into shelling out thousands for who new kits?

    1. phogan

      Why would they? Old hardware will still function and there will likely be a transition period where software is still supported. Also micromanaging every hardware design decision would be time consuming and way out of their remit without more justification than people will eventually need to upgrade.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Pseu Donyme
    Devil

    App stores are natural monopolies

    As app stores are natural monopolies they ought to be run as separate, independent non-profit entities. The natural monopoly is due to the network effect: even if the company controlling a platform allows installing from other sources as Google does with Android, the interdependent app users and developers tend to flock up in a single app store as more users means more developers, which means more users, which means more developers, ... which results in a (de-facto) monopoly - a market failure, great for the monopolist, but sucks for consumers and developers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: App stores are natural monopolies

      "Natural"?

      I know it's Apple, but app stores haven't grown on trees.

      :)

  17. naive

    The Commision needs new cars

    Maybe it is cheaper for apple just to buy a bunch of climate friendly 8-cylinder A8's, S Classes and 7 Series, hand the keys over to the Commission instead of going through the charade of litigation.

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