Apple Faces Scrutiny as EU Threatens ‘Strong Action’ if App Store Changes Underwhelm

EU Commissioner Warns of Consequences If Apple’s Modifications Fall Short of Digital Markets Act Compliance

Advertisement

In response to Apple’s recent adjustments to its App Store, the European Union (EU) has signaled the possibility of “strong action” if the changes fail to align with the forthcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA). Apple’s modifications aim to comply with the EU’s DMA, allowing developers to distribute apps through alternative stores and opt out of Apple’s in-app payment system by early March.

The EU’s industry chief, Thierry Breton, stated exclusively to Reuters that the DMA intends to foster fair and open digital markets. He emphasized the EU’s commitment to assessing companies’ proposals, taking third-party feedback into account, and asserted, “If the proposed solutions are not good enough, we will not hesitate to take strong action.”

As part of Apple’s amended approach, developers will gain the ability to provide alternative app stores on iPhones and bypass Apple’s in-app payment system, which currently imposes commissions of up to 30%. Despite these changes, critics argue that Apple’s fee structure remains unjust, potentially violating the DMA.

Advertisement

Under the new regime, starting from March 7, EU Apple device users will be able to choose default web browsers and contactless payments apps, offering more flexibility. Nevertheless, developers opting out of Apple’s App Store or payment system will still be subject to a “core technology fee” of 50 euro cents per user account per year. Apple clarified that this fee applies only to developers choosing the new business terms.

Critics, including privacy-focused software firm Proton’s CEO Andy Yen and Aptoide’s CEO Paulo Trezentos, expressed concerns about the trade-offs. Yen stated that while alternative payments and marketplaces seem positive, the attached conditions may hinder developers from reaping the benefits. Trezentos acknowledged the thoroughness of the changes but criticized the continued high fees.

Apple’s modifications are met with skepticism from companies like Meta and Spotify, which may face significant financial implications, particularly with the core technology fee. The European Commission encouraged designated gatekeepers to engage with third parties, emphasizing the importance of testing proposals for compliance with the evolving regulatory landscape. Apple has yet to respond to requests for comment.

As the March 7 deadline approaches, the tech industry watches closely to see how Apple’s adjustments will fare under the scrutiny of EU regulators.