UPDATED 14:35 EDT / JUNE 24 2024


EU tentatively finds that Apple breached DMA rules as officials launch fresh probe

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, has reached the preliminary conclusion that Apple Inc. is in breach of the bloc’s DMA regulation.

The Commission published its findings today. In conjunction, it announced the launch of a second DMA probe into Apple. Both decisions relate to the company’s restrictions on so-called steering, or the practice whereby developers encourage users to make purchases on platforms other than the App Store. 

“Our preliminary position is that Apple does not fully allow steering,” said European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager. “Steering is key to ensure that app developers are less dependent on gatekeepers’ app stores and for consumers to be aware of better offers.”

The DMA, or Digital Markets Act, is a piece of legislation that EU lawmakers approved in 2022 to regulate tech giants. The law covers a wide range of areas, including e-commerce, targeted advertising and preinstalled software on consumer devices. 

One of the DMA’s sections focuses on online marketplaces such as the App Store. The law specifies that app marketplaces must allow developers to deliver marketing offers to their users, as well as sell items such as subscriptions via third-party platforms. EU officials have reached the tentative conclusion that Apple breached those requirements.

The iPhone maker allows iOS apps to display links to third-party web pages where users can make purchases. However, the European Commission found that apps are not permitted to display information about offers available on such third-party webpages. Developers can’t, for example, add an interface section that shows the prices of subscriptions sold outside the App Store.

Regulators believe that some of the fees Apple charges for app transactions also breached the DMA. “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,” the European Commission stated.

In conjunction with the release of its preliminary findings, the Commission opened a new probe into Apple over the App Store’s terms of service. Officials will review the restrictions that the company places on third-party app marketplace and the developers who use them to distribute their apps. The goal is to determine if Apple’s rules may be in breach of the DMA.

One focus of the review is the fact that developers don’t automatically qualify to use third-party app marketplaces. They must comply with several requirements specified by Apple before they can use such platforms. “The Commission will investigate whether these requirements, such as the ‘membership of good standing’ in the Apple Developer Program, that app developers have to meet in order to be able to benefit from alternative distribution provided for in the DMA comply with the DMA,” the Commission stated.

After they receive permission to use third-party app marketplaces, developers that use such platforms must pay a so-called Core Technology Fee. The fee amounts to €0.50 per app installation. EU officials plan to investigate Apple’s commission, as well as the information panels and other interface elements in iOS that users must navigate to purchase apps from third-party app marketplaces.

An Apple spokesperson The Verge that “all developers doing business in the EU on the App Store have the opportunity to utilize the capabilities that we have introduced, including the ability to direct app users to the web to complete purchases at a very competitive rate. As we have done routinely, we will continue to listen and engage with the European Commission.”

The development comes a few days after Apple disclosed plans to delay the EU launch of Apple Intelligence, a set of artificial intelligence features it introduced at WWDC earlier this month. The company attributed the decision to concerns that the DMA “could force us to compromise the integrity of our products in ways that risk user privacy and data security.” Apple Intelligence is now expected to become available in the EU next year at the earliest. 

Image: Unsplash

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