Spotify is asking European regulators to help it fight Apple — just before Apple launches a big new subscription service

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

Spotify has complained about Apple for years. Now it has filed a formal complaint with the EU.

Spotify is complaining, again, about what it calls Apple’s anti-competitive actions.

The twist this time: The streaming music service has filed an actual, formal, complaint against Apple with the European Commission, and is making an accompanying public relations push.

“We’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek says in a blog post. The company’s filing is confidential, but Spotify has created a site laying out its case against Apple here; Spotify also hosted a briefing for reporters this morning with its general counsel Horacio Gutierrez, and Ek will make public remarks at an European Union event tomorrow.

The very short version of Spotify’s argument is one that it and other media companies have made for close to a decade: That Apple uses the combination of its giant installed base of iPhone users, plus its app store, to unfairly tax and inhibit companies who sell competitive services.

In Spotify’s case, it argues that Apple is trying to slow the streaming music service while pushing its own Apple Music service, by charging a 30 percent fee for subscriptions sold through its app store. It also complains that Apple won’t allow Spotify to easily integrate with hardware like its Apple Watch and HomePod speakers.

Again, none of these complaints are new for Spotify, which has pursued regulatory help from both the U.S. and the E.U. for years. They are also not new for other parts of the media business, like magazine and newspaper publishers, as well as video companies.

It’s an ongoing dispute that occasionally flares up in different parts of the industry: Late last year, for instance, Netflix stopped letting new customers sign up via the app store, because it didn’t want to share subscription revenue with Apple.

Now Apple is set to unveil a new subscription offering, which will it show off at a March 25 event, which will showcase a push into original video it has been making for a couple of years, as well as a “Netflix for magazines” (but probably not newspapers). There’s lots of speculation that Apple may bundle all of this together, along with Apple Music, into one mega-subscription service, that could prove both attractive for consumers and problematic for competitors.

On Spotify’s press call this morning, Gutierrez said Spotify’s filing is “completely unrelated” to Apple’s event, which was formally announced this week but has been on the industry’s radar for many months.

But there are other bits of context that also make today’s announcement different than past Spotify complaints. In the U.S., for instance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has renewed her call to separate Apple from its App store; the Supreme Court is also reviewing an antitrust case against Apple focused on its store. And European regulators are broadly skeptical of American tech giants: See the GDPR privacy rules which went into effect last year.

Apple’s terms haven’t prevented Spotify from growing rapidly. It has more than 207 million users worldwide, and at least 96 million paying subscribers.



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