The Dutch competition regulator, the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), has fined Apple 5 million euros (about $5.6 million) for not letting app developers dating sites use third-party payment methods, the ACM has announced. The regulator says Apple will continue to be fined €5 million per week until it properly complies with the order, which was made public on December 24.
With a market capitalization well over $2 trillion and revenue of $83.4 billion last quarter, Apple’s results are unlikely to be affected by these 5 million fines. But the Dutch regulator’s actions, like those of South Korea before it, could encourage others to take action against Apple’s App Store policies, as well as those of Google, which are also under scrutiny.
Apple has made efforts to comply with the ACM’s instructions. Ahead of the January 15 deadline, the iPhone maker announced it would allow dating apps to offer third-party payment options in the Netherlands. Developers would be allowed to direct customers to a website to make their purchase or offer in-app purchases within their apps that don’t use Apple’s own in-app purchase system. “We are obligated to make the mandatory changes we are launching today and will provide further information shortly,” the company said at the time.
But the ACM took issue with Apple’s approach. First, and perhaps most importantly, it indicates that Apple hasn’t actually rolled out support for third-party payment providers in the Dutch App Store. The ACM notes that developers are now able to express “interest” in using alternative payment systems, but are not actually able to use them in their apps. “Apple has failed to adjust its terms,” writes the regulator, “as a result of which dating app providers are still unable to use other payment systems.”
Second, the ACM indicates that Apple appears to be forcing dating app developers to choose between directing users to make payments outside of their app, Where using another in-app payment system. “Providers should be able to choose both options,” says the ACM.
When it announced the changes earlier this month, Apple said it still intended to collect a commission on payments made using external payment processors. He also mentioned that developers should offer a separate version of their app for the Dutch market in order to access this feature. The decision relates specifically to dating apps rather than apps more generally, following a complaint from Match Group (owners of Tinder and other dating services), Reuters reported last year.
Apple did not immediately respond to The edgerequest for comment on ACM’s fine. But earlier this month he announced he would appeal the ACM’s decision. “Because we do not believe these orders are in the best interests of our users, we have appealed the ACM’s decision to a higher court,” the company said. “We are concerned that these changes will compromise user experience and create new threats to user privacy and data security.”
The move was welcomed by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, who called Apple’s earlier response to the order a “bogus solution”. Epic Games is currently embroiled in a long-running dispute with Apple over its App Store policies.
Apple’s policy of forcing many developers to use its own in-app payment system, for which it often receives a 30% commission, has always been the subject of antitrust scrutiny around the world. Last year, South Korea passed a law preventing major platform owners like Apple from forcing developers to use their own in-app payment systems (Apple said it intended to comply with it earlier this month). Meanwhile, in the United States, a judge forced Apple to allow developers to connect to other payment processors, though that decision was later put on hold pending appeal.