Spotify, Tile, Tinder App Store complaints are solely business grievances, Apple says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2021
Apple has told the Senate Judiciary Committee that complaints alleging that the App Store is anticompetitive, are based solely in business grievances.

Credit: WikiMedia Commons
Credit: WikiMedia Commons


Following his previous hearing testimony, Apple's Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer has formally written to the US Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. Expanding on his verbal arguments, Andeer lists in detail why Apple believe that complaints from Spotify, Tile, and Match, are motivated by grievances instead of genuine anticompetitive concerns.

"I appreciated the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee last month," wrote Andeer, "and I ask that the Subcommittee include this letter in the record to ensure that there is an accurate reflection of the facts considered, particularly regarding specific allegations made against Apple at the hearing."

The full letter can be read below.

Spotify complaints

In a point by point, and company by company, rebuttal, Andeer's letter begins by disputing three specific complaints asserted by witnesses that Spotify presented at the hearing. Regarding Spotify's complaint that App Store fees are too high, Andeer said they "meet or beat" comparable industry charges.

"Spotify... pays a commission on less than one percent of its premium subscribers," wrote Andeer. "When Apple reduced commissions applicable to Spotify, Spotify did not reduce its prices for its customers, notwithstanding Spotify's witness' testimony that 'paying Apple's 30% tax... would have forced us to raise consumer prices.'"

Witnesses for Spotify also claimed Apple has a gag order, or an anti-steering practice, whereby developers cannot tell customers about alternative ways of paying.

"In fact, Apple does not prohibit developers from communicating with their customers," continued Andeer. "Apple simply says that developers cannot redirect customers who are in the App Store to leave the App Store and go elsewhere-- just as Apple cannot put a sign in the Verizon store, telling customers to buy iPhones directly from Apple instead."

Match/Tinder complaints

According to the letter, first spotted by 9to5mac, Tinder's complaints included a claim that Apple rejects apps without explanation. It included an example of how, allegedly, an update to Tinder was held in review for two months without Apple explaining why.

Andeer says, "that is not accurate."
Tinder submitted an update to Apple in June 2019 that included both an update to the app's subscription pricing and the "Traveler Alert" for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Apple explained that Tinder's new subscription pricing would violate FTC rules because Tinder did not make clear to customers that they would be charged for the full six-month subscription rather than a monthly charge. For one month (not two), Apple engaged in communications with Tinder, asking it to comply with fair consumer pricing rules and explaining that once changes to the description of subscription pricing were made, the updates would be approved.

Tinder complied, and in July 2019 the updates, including the "Traveler Alert," were approved. This is an example of Apple engaging in extensive discussions with a developer to ensure that the developer's app is made available to customers and that the App Store remains a safe and trusted place for consumers.

Apple says that Spotify, Tinder, and Tile have together been downloaded hundreds of millions of times from the App Store
Apple says that Spotify, Tinder, and Tile have together been downloaded hundreds of millions of times from the App Store

Tile complaints

Tile makes tracking devices and alleges that Apple's new AirTag represents unfair competition. Among the issues raised by Tile's witnesses was a complaint that Apple keeps certain technology, such as Ultra WideBand, for its own devices.

"However, Apple constantly makes features, functionalities, and APIs available to third-parties for their own development," wrote Andeer, "and weeks ago, Apple publicly announced that a draft specification of UWB for chipset manufacturers will be released later this spring."

Tile further claimed that as Apple had sold its tracking devices in Apple Stores, Apple has details of its retail information that it then used to help develop AirTags.
Years ago, Apple had some information about how Tile products sold in Apple's retail store. It did not sell well. Tile sells its products through dozens of retailers around the globe and its own website. Any information from Apple Store retail sales is both very limited and very outdated and likely no different from the information other brick-and- mortar stores have about products sold in those stores.

Nonetheless, Apple has never used any of that information in any decision-making related to AirTags.

Apple's position

In 7 pages and 4,000 words -- plus supporting documentation totalling over 15,000 words -- Apple says the App Store has been a boon for developers. "We're proud of the store we've built," wrote Andeer. "The result has been extraordinary, with the App Store supporting about 2.1 million American jobs."
"The developers who testified at the hearing were among some of the largest and most successful on the App Store, and their testimony was focused more on grievances related to business disputes with Apple than on competition concerns with the App Store.

Rather than demonstrating a problem with competition, these witnesses-- representing companies that have thrived in Apple's ecosystem-- showcased how Apple and the iOS ecosystem foster competition."

.

Apple's full letter to the Committee

Apple's Kyle Andeer to Judiciary Committee by Mike Wuerthele on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,908member
    Is Apple getting into the dating app market?
  • Reply 2 of 21
    harry wildharry wild Posts: 789member
    Tinder is #1 hookup app for both sex now!  Only Alpha guys remain on Tinder app.  It was once the #1 dating app at it beginning but the ladies on Tinder turn it into what it is now! :D
  • Reply 3 of 21
    This is pretty great. Clearly Andeer needed to provide background on some of the claims to add much needed clarity. He makes good points about App Store commission fees and meeting FTC requirements. 

    Regarding the anti-steering comments, it’s sad that this even needs to be explained. I’m still glad he did it. 
    bshankwilliamlondonomar moraleskillroyigorskypichaelwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 246unconfirmed, member
    I swear I don't understand how this is even going to court.

    The fact that people want to advertise cheaper prices outside the App Store is bizarre.

    It's like putting Target ads inside of Walmart. Makes no sense. 

    And the fact that Android is a nightmare with intrusive adware in almost all Androids I came in contact with (All owned by non tech people.).

    Just an example - My grandma had a lot of problems with Android, to the point there was a 3D cube in the Home Screen presenting ads. And I had to go to the file system to delete it.

    Now with her iPhone, she safely gets whatever game she wants, if she doesn't like like, she just deletes it.

    The Appstore provides a frictionless experience. That has a value, and developers know that. They just want more money.
    williamlondonomar moraleskillroyigorskybshankpscooter63mattinozFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    bshankbshank Posts: 240member
    Feels like Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant all over again! Go Apple!
    igorskypichaelwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,847member
    bshank said:
    Feels like Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant all over again! Go Apple!
    LOL.  I needed that reference to start my day.  That really IS what this is like.  Apple is like "listen, BROTHER! We are real AMERICANS.  We're gonna go Applemania on YOU." And these developers are like smaller, whiny millennial versions of Andre the Giant, with about as much verbal acumen.  
    bshankpichaelwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    marktimemarktime Posts: 36member
    sdw2001 said:
    bshank said:
    Feels like Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant all over again! Go Apple!
    LOL.  I needed that reference to start my day.  That really IS what this is like.  Apple is like "listen, BROTHER! We are real AMERICANS.  We're gonna go Applemania on YOU." And these developers are like smaller, whiny millennial versions of Andre the Giant, with about as much verbal acumen.  
    Don’t make fun of Andre the Giant! He might have sounded funny but he was a great guy. You wouldn’t want to risk having any of Fezzik’s friends show up on your doorstep!

    Of course if you wanted to compare whinny millennials to Vizzini, that’s reasonable.
    edited May 2021 sdw2001pichaelFileMakerFellerDetnator
  • Reply 8 of 21
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,847member
    marktime said:
    sdw2001 said:
    bshank said:
    Feels like Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant all over again! Go Apple!
    LOL.  I needed that reference to start my day.  That really IS what this is like.  Apple is like "listen, BROTHER! We are real AMERICANS.  We're gonna go Applemania on YOU." And these developers are like smaller, whiny millennial versions of Andre the Giant, with about as much verbal acumen.  
    Don’t make fun of Andre the Giant! He might have sounded funny but he was a great guy. You wouldn’t want to risk having any of Fezzik’s friends show up on your doorstep!

    Of course if you wanted to compare whinny millennials to Vizzini, that’s reasonable.
    I had mixed feelings about that joke.  I know all about Andre.  He was actually a very smart man.  I really was clowning on the character.  :)  
    bshankpichaelwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,847member
    All kidding aside, here's my take on the entire app store/Apple is a monopoly thing:  

    My understanding is that that monopoly claims with Apple (for the app store or complaints like Tile's) are unlikely to fly.  Yes, Apple has monopoly on app distribution on their phones.  They also compete in that marketplace.  To a lesser degree, some of the same ideas apply with their physical and online stores.  They run their stores and sell 3rd party products, some of which they directly compete with.  

    But there are a few key points.  First, monopolies are not illegal on their own.  It's only using/creating that monopoly in violation of U.S. law that is the issue.  Apple is allowed to compete in their own market.  They just can't use that monopoly power to push out or punish their competitors.  The evidence that they've done so is weak sauce, in my view.  They have app approval standards, curate and promote 3rd party content, etc.  Proving that they promote their own apps to the detriment of developers (who have to prove damages) is going to be very difficult.  Even if the latter was proven, I'm not sure it's enough to justify government action.  

    Secondly, I don't see how Tile has any legitimate complaint here at all.  Apple does not have a monopoly on selling hardware items.  Stores promote their own brands all the time.  Is Wal-Mart not allowed to sell it's Great Value brand? Can target not sell their Up (or whatever it is) brand?  I'd argue stores like that have a much bigger market impact than Apple's physical and online presence.  

    Finally, I don't see how the case is made that Apple's behavior harms consumers or developers.  There are hundreds of thousands of apps (millions?) and developers small and large have made a ton of money.  Paid versions of apps are often quite inexpensive....usually less than $5.  Developers love subscriptions and found they made even more money with in-app purchases.  Now they are complaining they have to pay the toll to use the highway that made them rich.   As a consumer, I no longer think of software as a major purchase, unless it's a large, staple Mac app (Office, A/V software, etc.).  Remember when software came in a box and costs $50-75 for one title? That wasn't that long ago.  
    killroyScot1bshankFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    Disgusting losers, oh we don’t make enough money, so instead of trying to make its own products better like Apple. Let’s sue the place who gets our products to a billion people, and somebody who made Epic from a struggling company to 30 billion in just 9 years! 
    bshank
  • Reply 11 of 21
    This anti-trust fight is going to go down in flames in the US at least. Once again they raised the most selfish issue of all: Money. Had this been about the right of consumers to decide for themselves what apps they can use on the devices they own, it could have succeeded. They could have rolled it into the right to repair fight as well. Why is a 30% "Apple Tax" unacceptable but a 15% cut perfectly fine?
    bshank
  • Reply 12 of 21
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,909member
    sdw2001 said:
    My understanding is that that monopoly claims with Apple (for the app store or complaints like Tile's) are unlikely to fly.    
    Do you mean unlikely to fly in an American court, or in the court of public opinion, or in the US Congress, or in the parliaments all over the world? I'm just asking what you mean, I'm not otherwise arguing with you.
    sdw2001 said:
    But there are a few key points.  First, monopolies are not illegal on their own. 
    You probably mean in America. Have you considered that Apple is an international company and has to worry about similar court cases currently progressing in other nations of the world? And many countries are dictatorships (either 53 or 102 nations depending upon how strictly you define "dictatorship") whose laws are whatever the dictator says is the law on any given day. The tide could turn quickly on Apple worldwide.
  • Reply 13 of 21
    I think the most likely rule to emerge from all this will be that Apple cannot give its own apps access to APIs and other system resources that competing apps don’t have access to. 

    The UWB complaint from Tile is an example of this. Apple will be required to roll out the draft UWB specification earlier in the process, or at least at the same time they release a product that uses it. 

    There may also be aspects of Spotify’s complaints that meet this criteria, I’m not sure.

    The Screen Time brouhaha would fit — even though it is part of the system and not a competing app — Apple will be forced to provide access to those APIs in a more transparent and timely manner. 
    edited May 2021 williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 21
    WgkruegerWgkrueger Posts: 352member
    Tinder is #1 hookup app for both sex now!  Only Alpha guys remain on Tinder app.  It was once the #1 dating app at it beginning but the ladies on Tinder turn it into what it is now! :D
    I’m guessing you won't be working for Apple after that comment. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,918member
    Do name brand products like Kellogg’s or Proctor & Gamble complain this much about generics being sold for less in stores?
    williamlondonpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 21
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,847member
    sdw2001 said:
    My understanding is that that monopoly claims with Apple (for the app store or complaints like Tile's) are unlikely to fly.    
    Do you mean unlikely to fly in an American court, or in the court of public opinion, or in the US Congress, or in the parliaments all over the world? I'm just asking what you mean, I'm not otherwise arguing with you.
    sdw2001 said:
    But there are a few key points.  First, monopolies are not illegal on their own. 
    You probably mean in America. Have you considered that Apple is an international company and has to worry about similar court cases currently progressing in other nations of the world? And many countries are dictatorships (either 53 or 102 nations depending upon how strictly you define "dictatorship") whose laws are whatever the dictator says is the law on any given day. The tide could turn quickly on Apple worldwide.
    Great questions. I was referring to the courts for the most part, including anti-trust action.  I think the same applies to Congress.  Congress isn’t going to go after Apple that hard because their constituents don’t want it. 

    And yes, I was referring to only to U.S.  The story is about the debate judiciary committee. That’s why mentioned U.S. law.  But you are absolutely right. Any number of nations could go after Apple with their different anti-trust laws. 
    bshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,909member
    sdw2001 said:
    sdw2001 said:
    My understanding is that that monopoly claims with Apple (for the app store or complaints like Tile's) are unlikely to fly.    
    Do you mean unlikely to fly in an American court, or in the court of public opinion, or in the US Congress, or in the parliaments all over the world? I'm just asking what you mean, I'm not otherwise arguing with you.
    sdw2001 said:
    But there are a few key points.  First, monopolies are not illegal on their own. 
    You probably mean in America. Have you considered that Apple is an international company and has to worry about similar court cases currently progressing in other nations of the world? And many countries are dictatorships (either 53 or 102 nations depending upon how strictly you define "dictatorship") whose laws are whatever the dictator says is the law on any given day. The tide could turn quickly on Apple worldwide.
    Great questions. I was referring to the courts for the most part, including anti-trust action.  I think the same applies to Congress.  Congress isn’t going to go after Apple that hard because their constituents don’t want it. 

    And yes, I was referring to only to U.S.  The story is about the debate judiciary committee. That’s why mentioned U.S. law.  But you are absolutely right. Any number of nations could go after Apple with their different anti-trust laws. 
    How polite of you. I was worried from your "screaming avatar" that you might scream back at me. At least half the readers of AI are US-based so I can understand a US-centric viewpoint on this website. But the US is only 4% of the world's population and a similar(?) small percentage of Apple's total sales, so Apple has to keep a world-centric perspective.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 21
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,943member
    That Spotify observation was a real kick to the gonads.  Spotify complained about high rates, then when Apple reduced those rates, Spotify did not reduct the prices to their customers.  That's got to hurt.  It really shows that Spotify was just out to screw their customers.  I'm glad Apple had that kind of info on hand to slap Spotify right across the face.
    williamlondonFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 21
    sdw2001 said:
    sdw2001 said:
    My understanding is that that monopoly claims with Apple (for the app store or complaints like Tile's) are unlikely to fly.    
    Do you mean unlikely to fly in an American court, or in the court of public opinion, or in the US Congress, or in the parliaments all over the world? I'm just asking what you mean, I'm not otherwise arguing with you.
    sdw2001 said:
    But there are a few key points.  First, monopolies are not illegal on their own. 
    You probably mean in America. Have you considered that Apple is an international company and has to worry about similar court cases currently progressing in other nations of the world? And many countries are dictatorships (either 53 or 102 nations depending upon how strictly you define "dictatorship") whose laws are whatever the dictator says is the law on any given day. The tide could turn quickly on Apple worldwide.
    Great questions. I was referring to the courts for the most part, including anti-trust action.  I think the same applies to Congress.  Congress isn’t going to go after Apple that hard because their constituents don’t want it. 

    And yes, I was referring to only to U.S.  The story is about the debate judiciary committee. That’s why mentioned U.S. law.  But you are absolutely right. Any number of nations could go after Apple with their different anti-trust laws. 
    How polite of you. I was worried from your "screaming avatar" that you might scream back at me. At least half the readers of AI are US-based so I can understand a US-centric viewpoint on this website. But the US is only 4% of the world's population and a similar(?) small percentage of Apple's total sales, so Apple has to keep a world-centric perspective.
    About 40% of Apple’s total sales/revenue is generated in the US.
    edited May 2021 muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 21
    earthkidearthkid Posts: 30member
    I'm really tired of bullies like Spotify and tile. come on tile got a way ahead start of apple years before airtag day and why are they start complaining now? you got a way ahead start and you still not be able to go far and now you complain about Apple AirTag. to me,, you are just being a bully when you can't compete but if you are winning then it's ok to be anti competition, right? for Spotify, why are you also complaining. it's our option who we want to sign up for.  if you are not with the way apple does then take your business elsewhere.
    williamlondonthtwatto_cobra
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