The European Commission (EC) outlined its initial view Apple was breaching Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules with its App Store policies, as the regulator opened a fresh investigation into the iPhone maker for another potential violation.

Preliminary findings of an investigation into the tech giant’s compliance with the DMA with regards to its App Store indicated Apple’s rules prevented developers from freely steering consumers to alternative channels for offers and content, the EC explained.

Under the law, it highlighted, developers using Apple’s app distribution platform should be able to inform users of alternative purchasing options without charge and steer them to those offers.

In its initial view none of Apple’s three sets of relevant business terms allowed developers to freely steer customers.

Should the EC’s preliminary findings be confirmed a non-compliance decision will be made within 12 months of the start of the probe, which in this case was 25 March 2024.

European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said it had “reason to believe that the App Store rules not allowing app developers to communicate freely with their own users is in breach of the DMA”.

“Without prejudice to Apple’s right of defence, we are determined to use the clear and effective DMA toolbox to finally open real opportunities for innovators and for consumers”.

EC EVP for competition policy Margrethe Vestager (pictured) added: “the developers’ community and consumers are eager to offer alternatives to the App Store. We will investigate to ensure Apple does not undermine these efforts”.

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The developers’ community and consumers are eager to offer alternatives to the App Store. We will investigate to ensure Apple does not undermine these efforts

Margrethe Vestager, EVP for competition policy European Commission

At the same time as it opened that investigation, the regulator commenced probes into Apple over its software policies alongside starting to look into the activities of fellow US players Meta Platforms and Alphabet.

The maximum fine for infringing the DMA is 10 per cent of worldwide turnover with the level of fine able to be increased for repeat offences. It also has the power to “adopt additional remedies” such as obliging companies to “sell a business or parts of it” for systematic non-compliance.

New investigation
At the same time as publishing the result of its App Store investigation the EC announced it was opening a third non-compliance investigation against the iPhone maker over its new contractual terms for developers.

As part of this assessment the EC will decide if the new requirements comply with the DMA, including by looking at its fee structure for developers of third party app stores and apps.

Other elements under the microscope include eligibility requirements for developers and the user journey for downloading apps from outside of the App Store on Apple devices.  

The EC’s latest move comes days after Apple reportedly said it would withhold the release of generative AI tools in the European Union due to concerns about the DMA.