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Apple Says It Collects Fees for Less Than 1% of Spotify’s Subscribers, but the App Store ‘Tax’ Isn’t the Whole Story

Spotify
Olly Curtis/Future/Shutterstock

Apple, trying to show that it doesn’t force app providers to pay a “tax” to be included in the App Store, filed a response to Spotify’s antitrust complaint with the European Commission — revealing that Apple collects a 15% fee for just 680,000 of Spotify’s more than 100 million premium subscribers.

According to Apple, the company doesn’t levy the 30% fee on any of Spotify’s subscribers. It takes 15% of the ongoing subscription fee for Spotify customers who signed up between 2014 and 2016 (its standard cut for subscriptions purchased through the App Store after the first 12 months). In 2016, Spotify removed the ability to subscribe to the streaming service via Apple’s in-app payment.

Apple’s response, filed May 31 with the European Commission, was reported Monday by Der Spiegel newspaper, which obtained a copy of the document.

Spotify declined to comment on Apple’s response. But in previous statements, Spotify has said Apple’s so-called “tax” on App Store purchases is only one facet of its allegations that Apple unfairly wields market clout against rivals. Apple in 2015 launched Apple Music, a subscription service that competes with Spotify.

Spotify has alleged that Apple has taken several punitive steps against the music-streaming company to retaliate for Spotify pulling out of the App Store’s in-app purchase system. That has included rejecting Spotify’s app multiple times over the last three years for purported violations of the App Store guidelines.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, in a blog post about the March complaint with the EU, alleged that if Spotify opts out of using Apple’s payment system, “Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify.”

For example, he charged, Apple limits Spotify’s ability to communicate with its customers, including in some cases restricting Spotify’s ability to send emails to customers who use Apple devices. In addition, “Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades,” Ek wrote. That has included “locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services such as Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch.”

In its initial response to Spotify’s EU complaint, Apple accused Spotify of wanting to benefit from being included in the App Store without paying for the privilege. “After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem – including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers – without making any contributions to that marketplace,” Apple said at the time.

Separately, in the U.S. Apple is the target of a class-action lawsuit alleging the App Store unlawfully monopolizes the aftermarket for iPhone apps. The Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed in a May 2019 ruling.