Apple is once again the target of political uproar this week, as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Swedish streaming service Spotify have both publicly commented on some allegedly unfair business practices from the tech company.
As things heat up this election season — and following a fundraiser by Apple CEO Tim Cook for Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — Warren claimed that Apple, “has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services.”
In agreement with Warren’s claims, Spotify sent a letter to Apple’s top lawyer claiming that the company is blocking a new version of its iOS app from the App Store, saying that Apple is, “causing great harm to Spotify and its customers,” according to Recode.
The alleged refusal to approve an update comes after years of discontent between the two companies.
Spotify has previously voiced concerns over the 30-percent fee charged to iOS-based users who purchase their Spotify subscription via Apple’s App Store, and was eager to join in the senator’s criticism.
“Apple has long used its control of iOS to squash competition in music, driving up the prices of its competitors, inappropriately forbidding us from telling our customers about lower prices, and giving itself unfair advantages across its platform through everything from the lock screen to Siri,” said head of communications and public policy Jonathan Prince to Recode. “You know there’s something wrong when Apple makes more off a Spotify subscription than it does off an Apple Music subscription and doesn’t share any of that with the music industry. They want to have their cake and eat everyone else’s too.”
Apple has long charged a 30-percent fee for the sale of intangible goods in its app store, including game credits, music, books, premium apps and upgrades, so the company isn’t specifically targeting Spotify with added financial burdens.
Still, in a cutthroat industry like music streaming, a 30-percent cut applied to subscription fees is impossible to stomach, and Spotify as a result must charge users who purchase their subscriptions via iOS $13 per month instead of the usual $10 to avoid taking a bigger hit on its already unprofitable business.
Users who wish to avoid that $3 fee can simply sign up via Spotify’s website, but many first-time subscribers don’t know that, and Apple isn’t about to tell them, hence Spotify and Warren’s criticism of the company.
Regardless of the political and competitor responses to its questionable business practices, Apple has not announced any changes to its current App Store fee structure or the way it the manages update approval process.
Updated on 07-01-2016 by Parker Hall: Updated to reflect Spotify’s letter to Apple regarding the lack of approval for an update to its iOS application.