EU Accuses Apple’s App Store Steering Rules of Violating DMA and Opens Investigation into Developer Fees

The European Commission has formally announced its preliminary view that Apple’s App Store policies are in breach of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), specifically in relation to anti-steering rules.

Under the DMA, developers distributing their apps via Apple’s ‌App Store‌ should be able, free of charge, to inform their customers of alternative cheaper purchasing possibilities, steer them to those offers, and allow them to make purchases. The Commission says that Apple’s “business terms” with developers prevent that.

“Developers cannot provide pricing information within the app or communicate in any other way with their customers to promote offers available on alternative distribution channels,” said the Commission in its press release.

The Commission also said that Apple’s link-out process for steering customers is “subject to several restrictions imposed by Apple that prevent app developers from communicating, promoting offers and concluding contracts through the distribution channel of their choice.”

In addition, the Commission believes that the fees charged by Apple for facilitating new customer acquisition via the ‌App Store‌ “go beyond what is strictly necessary for such remuneration.” For example, Apple charges developers a fee for every purchase of digital goods or services a user makes within seven days after a link-out from the app, and the Commission sees this as excessive.

The Commission also said it was opening a new non-compliance procedure against Apple over concerns that its new contractual requirements for third-party app developers and app marketplaces, including its €0.50 Core Technology Fee, “fall short of ensuring effective compliance with Apple’s obligations under the DMA.”

Now that the Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view, Apple can exercise its defence by examining the documents in the Commission’s investigation file and replying in writing to the Commission’s preliminary findings. If Apple was found to be in breach of the DMA, the company could face fines up to 10% of its worldwide revenue. The Commission’s final decision is due by March 2025.

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