Spotify and Epic criticize Apple’s iOS changes as ‘a mockery of the DMA’

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Image: The Verge

Over two dozen companies and alliances, including Spotify, Epic Games, 37signals, and Proton, have signed a letter to the European Commission to express concerns about Apple’s incoming App Store rules. As a company deemed a “digital gatekeeper,” it will have to comply with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) starting on March 6th, and they argue that its plans not only disregard both the spirit and letter of the law” but “make a mockery” of it, too.

Apple will allow alternative app stores, sideloading, and third-party payment options in the EU soon — but only as long as developers agree to a new set of business terms that impose a “Core Technology Fee,” which requires developers to fork over 50 euro cents for each annual app install after 1 million downloads. The letter claims this new structure “seems designed to maintain and even amplify Apple’s exploitation of its dominance over app developers,” as “few app developers will agree to these unjust terms,” potentially squashing competition and alternative payment options.

Developers that decide to stay on Apple’s existing terms won’t have to pay the new fee, but they also won’t be able to distribute their apps on alternate app stores. That’s why the letter argues that Apple’s plans offer app developers “an unworkable choice” between the two options, claiming that neither one is “DMA compliant and both options would simply consolidate Apple’s stronghold over digital markets.”

“Apple’s new terms do not allow for sideloading and make the installation and use of new app stores difficult, risky and financially unattractive for developers,” the letter states. “Rather than creating healthy competition and new choices, Apple’s new terms will erect new barriers and reinforce Apple’s stronghold over the iPhone ecosystem.” The companies urge the European Commission to take action against Apple “to guarantee the DMA remains both credible and delivers competitive digital markets.”

In a statement to The Verge, Apple spokesperson Peter Ajemian says the “DMA changes will result in a less secure system”:

Apple’s approach to the Digital Markets Act was guided by two simple goals: complying with the law and reducing the inevitable, increased risks the DMA creates for our EU users… For every change, teams at Apple continued to put our users at the center of everything we do.

That meant creating safeguards to protect EU users to the greatest extent possible and to respond to new threats, including new vectors for malware and viruses, opportunities for scams and fraud, and challenges to ensuring apps are functional on Apple’s platforms. Still, these protections don’t eliminate new threats the DMA creates.

Ajemian adds that Apple will “continue to engage with the European Commission, the developer community, and our EU users about their impacts.”

The European Commission is set to hold an Apple DMA compliance workshop on March 18th, where participants will be able to ask questions and provide feedback on the company’s compliance plans. Apple’s decision to discontinue iPhone web apps in the EU is already garnering the attention of regulators, as the European Commission has already confirmed that it has sent Apple a request for information about the decision.