Why Apple’s fight in the Netherlands matters
This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here . is a collection of last column,
Who wins when governments go head-to-head with technology giants – and what should we root for?
We’re getting a short test of that question in the Netherlands. Last year, the Dutch counterpart of the US Federal Trade Commission became one of the first regulators in the world to require Apple to give people multiple payment options for using the dating app on their phones. It was a minor crack in the full control that Apple has implemented on iPhone apps since 2008.
It has now become a standoff between the world’s most valuable company and Dutch bureaucrats. Apple has proposed a solution, but the regulator called Apple’s attitude “regrettable” and issued a weekly fine totaling 25 million euros (about $28 million). Apple says the safety and convenience of iPhone owners will be compromised if it allows it, but says the company is complying with its legal obligations.
I generally don’t mind the relatively minor regulatory beef, but the company is fighting like it’s a big deal. Apple’s response also reflects how tech superpowers react to governments’ efforts to change the role of technologies.
More authorities everywhere in the world – in both democratic and authoritarian countries – want tech companies to change what they are doing. Tech giants say they follow the laws wherever they operate. But they also backfire against governments and defy or shape laws and regulations. And it’s not always easy to tell the difference between righteous disobedience and corporate impunity.
For example, democracy advocates have criticized Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google for not doing enough against government efforts to censor political speech in countries such as Vietnam, India and Russia. Internet campaigners praised Apple for refusing to help the FBI with killer iPhones, following the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015 and Pensacola, Fla., in 2020.
The Netherlands became an unexpected high-stakes tech battleground starting in 2019, when the Authority for Consumers and Markets launched an investigation into whether Apple’s App Storefront broke the country’s laws against abuse of power.
The broader issue is the same one that Apple is facing in Fargo, ND, Seoul and many world capitals and courts everywhere in between. Some executives and developers say Apple unfairly controls our smartphones and the digital economy by requiring us to download iPhone apps through its App Store. There, the company sets the rules for what content is appropriate and collects a commission of up to 30 percent on certain purchases.
App developers including Match Group, the American company that owns Tinder, Match.com and other dating services, used the Dutch investigation to air their complaints about Apple. Match wanted more options that would go around Apple’s store to direct people to pay for dating services.
In August, the ACM issued an order banning Apple from requiring dating apps to use only the company’s payment system, which enables Apple to charge a fee. It may not sound like much, but the Netherlands may be one of the first dominoes in loosening Apple’s grip on the app economy.
In response, Apple last month proposed a set of conditions that some app developers said were hostile defiance of the Dutch regulator. Apple essentially said that dating apps in the country could use any payment system, but Apple would collect a fee of 27 cents on every dollar purchase, and would be required to hand over information and audits to dating companies. This.
Try to imagine if Walmart said shoppers could pay anyway, but it costs more if you use a non-Walmart credit card and you have to give Walmart a monthly statement of your card. Might be possible.
People keeping a close eye on Apple have said that its approach in the Netherlands is probably a blueprint for other cases in which judges or regulators try to force the company to do things it doesn’t want to do with its App Store. Wanted.
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager addressed Apple’s behavior in a speech on Tuesday. “Some gatekeepers may try to play for the time being or circumvent the rules,” she said. “Apple’s conduct in the Netherlands these days could be an example.”
The regulator says Apple’s new terms do not comply with the ACM order. “Apple’s so-called ‘solutions’ continue to create enormous barriers for dating-app providers who want to use their payment systems,” an ACM spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
A court in the Netherlands would most likely have to settle the dispute with Apple. All regulation is slow and complicated, but the controversy suggests that the number of deep-pocketed tech companies could be even higher. The question now is whether Apple will fight its current and future efforts to replace its App Store in the Netherlands with vigor – and we will be better or worse if it does.
#Apples #fight #Netherlands #matters