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With growing competition, Spotify’s family plan crackdown could backfire

Most popular music streaming services offer family plans, letting you and a few family members split the bill and get your music streaming on for even less than a standard subscription. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that considering it’s so easy to do so, some users also share their subscriptions with friends to lower the cost even further. Companies frown on this, but until now, none have done much to combat it.

Now Spotify is taking steps to put a stop to this, according to Quartz, but it could end up costing the service subscribers it badly needs if it’s going to continue to compete with Apple Music, its main rival.

Spotify Premium for Family subscribers in the United States and Germany have begun receiving emails asking them to confirm their location by clicking a link that then requests their GPS information. “To continue using Spotify Premium for Family, you’ll need to confirm your home address,” the emails read. An ominous warning follows: “If you don’t confirm, you may lose access to the plan.”

On the Spotify website, the company states that users of the Premium for Family plan, which supports up to five people, must all live in the same location. Users who have received these emails are saying that the name of the plan is misleading if this is the case, since not all families live together. Families with separated parents, for example, could be affected by this, regardless of everyone on the plan being family.

“Spotify is currently testing improvements to the user experience of Premium for Family with small user groups in select markets,” a Spotify spokesperson said in response to Quartz’s request for comment. “We are always testing new products and experiences at Spotify, but have no further news to share regarding this particular feature test at this time.”

Apple Music is already leading Spotify in the U.S., so the last thing the service needs right now is to appear hostile to users, but this is exactly what is happening. That’s not the only competition either: With SiriusXM poised to acquire Pandora, thereby creating the world’s largest audio entertainment company, the service may see another serious competitor.

Billboard reports that almost half of global streaming subscribers, including those of Spotify’s rivals, use family plans, so this is a large population of users it could end up angering. If Spotify starts pushing users away and into the arms of its competition, the outlook for the service could suddenly become a lot gloomier.

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