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EU slaps Apple with a €500 Million fine for alleged antitrust violations in music streaming

After a lengthy investigation, Brussels is set to levy its first fine against tech giant Apple, amounting to approximately €500 million, for purportedly breaching EU regulations regarding access to its music streaming services.

This landmark decision marks the culmination of a European Commission antitrust inquiry scrutinizing whether Apple exploited its platform to favor its services over competitors.

The investigation, sparked by a formal complaint from music-streaming app Spotify in 2019, focuses on whether Apple obstructed apps from informing iPhone users about cheaper alternatives for accessing music subscriptions outside of the App Store.

Sources familiar with the matter disclosed that the Commission will denounce Apple’s actions as unlawful and contrary to the EU’s competition enforcement rules, aiming to promote fair competition within the single market.

Accusations against Apple include abusing its dominant market position and enforcing anti-competitive trade practices on rivals, with the EU labeling its terms as “unfair trading conditions.”

This penalty stands as one of the most significant financial sanctions imposed by the EU on major tech firms, following a series of fines totaling around €8 billion against Google, currently under legal contestation.

While Apple has not previously faced fines for antitrust violations from Brussels, it encountered a €1.1 billion penalty in France in 2020 for alleged anti-competitive conduct, later reduced to €372 million upon appeal.

The EU’s latest action against Apple reignites the ongoing clash between Brussels and Big Tech, particularly amid efforts to ensure compliance with new regulations designed to foster competition and support smaller tech players.

Under the Digital Markets Act, designated “gatekeeper” companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google are mandated to adhere to stricter rules, facilitating information sharing with competitors.

Concerns persist regarding the pace of competition enabled by these rules, although Brussels emphasizes that such transformations necessitate time.

Brussels formally charged Apple in the antitrust probe in 2021, subsequently narrowing the investigation’s focus last year and dropping a charge related to compelling developers to use its in-app payment system.

Under the Digital Markets Act, designated “gatekeeper” companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google are mandated to adhere to stricter rules, facilitating information sharing with competitors.

Concerns persist regarding the pace of competition enabled by these rules, although Brussels emphasizes that such transformations necessitate time.

Brussels formally charged Apple in the antitrust probe in 2021, subsequently narrowing the investigation’s focus last year and dropping a charge related to compelling developers to use its in-app payment system.

The precise timing of the Commission’s announcement remains uncertain, although sources affirm that it will not alter the trajectory of the ongoing antitrust investigation. Apple, with the option to appeal to EU courts, declined to comment on the impending ruling, referencing a statement from a year prior where it expressed readiness to address concerns while advocating for competition.

In its response, Apple highlighted the instrumental role of the App Store in Spotify’s success across Europe, expressing hope for the European Commission to cease its pursuit of what it deems a meritless complaint.

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