Ms. Vestager said the commission had other investigations underway against Apple, including whether the company boxes out rivals to Apple Pay, and had been speaking with counterparts in the United States, Australia and the Netherlands about the inquiries.
“It is an area that has raised concern with a number of colleagues of ours around the world,” Ms. Vestager said.
Spotify cheered the European Commission’s decision. Starting in 2016, the Swedish company stopped allowing customers to purchase a subscription through its iPhone and iPad apps as a way to avoid paying Apple’s fee, instead steering people to Spotify’s website.
“Ensuring the iOS platform operates fairly is an urgent task with far-reaching implications,” Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s head of global affairs and chief legal officer, said in a statement. The commission’s announcement, he said, “is a critical step toward holding Apple accountable for its anticompetitive behavior, ensuring meaningful choice for all consumers and a level playing field for app developers.”
Apple said its App Store policies did not harm competition, but rather gave businesses a platform to reach customers. The company said developers could find payment alternatives, noting that Spotify pays little in commissions to Apple because customers must subscribe through a website. Apple said Spotify had become the world’s largest music streaming service in part because of the App Store.
“They want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that,” Apple said in a statement. “The commission’s argument on Spotify’s behalf is the opposite of fair competition.”
Criticism of the App Store is part of a broader debate over tech industry power, where a small number of companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet, which owns Google, have government-like authority to set policies over major parts of the digital economy. This authority determines how people find information and entertainment, communicate and shop.