June 10, 2023
Spotify: Apple is ruining audiobooks with 'anti-competitive behavior'

Spotify: Apple is ruining audiobooks with ‘anti-competitive behavior’

Spotify came out against Apple on Wednesday, detailing all the ways Apple is forcing Spotify to deliver a poor user experience unless the company pays Apple a 30% App Store commission on all sales.

“We want to provide a super awesome and easy user experience,” Spotify says on a new Time to Play Fair website. “But again, Apple is standing in the way – this time, in addition to hurting consumers, authors and publishers are also being punished.”

The issue is Apple’s stance on in-app purchases, which Apple wants to make through its in-app iOS shopping system, not an app’s or brand’s e-commerce capability. For this service, Apple wants a 30% share. This is, of course, the same problem Apple faced with Epic, the makers of the insanely popular Fortnite game which is no longer available on the App Store after being banned for allowing purchases that circumvented policies. purchase from Apple.

Spotify doesn’t want to pay the 30% fee, which would make the audiobook business much less profitable, and so it’s currently forced into a convoluted and difficult process for audiobook purchases. In fact, it tried three times to redesign the process, the company says, but Apple rejected the app for violating App Store guidelines.

Spotify says Apple won’t allow it to do eight things. According to Apple’s guidelines, Spotify says:

  1. Unable to sell audiobooks in the Spotify app without using Apple’s in-app purchase methodology
  2. I can’t explain why they can’t sell audiobooks in their app
  3. I can’t explain where or how people can buy Spotify’s audiobook elsewhere
  4. Unable to share a link to redirect customers to a website to purchase the audiobook
  5. Unable to email people with purchase info outside the App Store
  6. Unable to answer audiobook questions via email
  7. Unable to tell customers the cost of the audiobook in their app or in an email
  8. Can’t give people advice on how to navigate a non-Apple purchase process

That’s a lot of blockages. Perhaps most glaringly, Spotify is not allowing Spotify to send email through its own mail servers to its own customers, a process that does not touch Apple at all. (Apple’s claim here, of course, will be that Spotify acquired its customers’ email address through its iOS app.)

So far, Apple has been forced to open up to non-integrated purchase flows in at least two countries, Korea and the Netherlands. However, the process enabled by Apple is much more expensive and still costs developers 27% of the purchase price in the Netherlands and 26% in South Korea, leaving regulators unhappy with Apple’s compliance with local regulations.

“Basically, Apple’s rules impose a cumbersome audiobook purchasing process that makes it harder for you to find your next favorite author or book,” Spotify explains.

The reality is that sooner or later competition authorities will likely force Apple to open up in-app purchases. In Europe, this is likely via the new Digital Markets Act, which will likely require significant changes to both the App Store and Google Play:

As I’ve written elsewhere, this probably, but not certainly, means changes like this:

  • People might delete pre-installed apps
  • People might sideload apps or install them like you might install an app from the internet on a desktop computer.
  • Companies could create independent app stores
  • Apps could use third-party payment processing
  • Applications could interact with basic services around messaging
  • Apps could use hardware features that platforms might have reserved for themselves
  • People might switch AI assistants

The question is: will Apple and Google do it voluntarily, and thus maintain a certain level of public appreciation and support for developers, or will they do it slowly, reluctantly and only as required by the law ?

“Apple doesn’t just make the rules,” Spotify says. “They also modify them arbitrarily to favor their own services and punish app developers who choose not to implement in-app purchases (IAPs). And in this case, that means audiobook listeners as well as authors and publishers suffer as well. »

I asked Apple for a comment and will update this story if the company responds.

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