Apple fined €5m for failing to comply with Dutch app payment rules

24 Jan 2022

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Apple could be fined up to €50m unless it removes barriers to third-party payment systems for dating-app providers.

Tech giant Apple has been fined €5m by a Dutch consumer watchdog for failing to allow dating-apps to use third-party payment systems.

The fine was issued by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) after it demanded Apple adjust “unreasonable conditions” on its app store. The ACM said dating-app providers are not able to freely choose a payment system for purchases made by consumers.

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The order was first issued last December after the ACM noted that on iPhones, dating apps can only be offered through the App Store. The Dutch regulator said this makes dating-app providers highly dependent on Apple, giving the company a “dominant position”.

“Some app providers are dependent on Apple’s App Store, and Apple takes advantage of that dependency. Apple has special responsibilities because of its dominant position,” chair of the ACM board Martijn Snoep said when the order was first issued. “That is why Apple needs to take seriously the interests of app providers too and set reasonable conditions.

“That is what we are forcing Apple to do with this order. Protecting people and businesses against abuse of market power in the digital economy is one of our most important duties,” Snoep added.

The ACM said today (24 January) that Apple has failed to adjust its conditions, as dating-app providers are unable to use other payment systems and can only express interest. The Dutch regulator also said Apple has created barriers for dating-app providers trying to use third-party payment systems.

“Apple seemingly forces app providers to make a choice: either refer to payment systems outside of the app or to an alternative payment system. That is not allowed. Providers must be able to choose both options,” the ACM said in a statement.

ACM has informed Apple that it has not satisfied the requirements issued and must now pay the €5m fine. If Apple fails to make the necessary changes, it could face continued fines of €5m a week, up to a maximum of €50m.

EU lawmakers have been attempting to shift the balance of power from the hands of Big Tech and into the hands of EU residents. On Friday 21 January, the European Parliament voted in favour of the long-debated Digital Services Act, designed to hold tech giants accountable for content on their platforms in a spate of new rules and regulations.

A month earlier, MEPs voted in support of the Digital Markets Act, a similar set of proposed laws that seek to impose stricter rules around tech competition in the EU and rein in the monopoly large multinationals hold in Europe’s digital space.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com