The Apple Inc. logo is displayed at one of the company’s stores in Hong Kong, China. (Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg)

Apple Faces Dutch Antitrust Probe Over Favoring Its Own Apps

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. faces a Dutch antitrust probe into whether it favors its own apps over rivals, weeks after music streaming service Spotify Technology SA asked the European Union to investigate the phone maker.

The Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers & Markets will examine whether Apple abuses a dominant market position "by giving preferential treatment to its own apps," it said in a statement on Thursday. The probe will initially focus on Apple’s App Store, where regulators have received the most detailed complaints, and Dutch apps for news media, but is also calling on app providers to flag if they have any problems with Google’s Play Store.

The antitrust probe adds to a growing backlash against the tolls Apple and Google charge to developers using their app stores. The EU’s powerful antitrust arm is weighing Spotify’s complaint targeting Apple. This builds on concerns that technology platforms control the online ecosystem and may rig the game to their own advantage. Amazon.com Inc.’s potential use of data on rival sellers is also being probed by the EU to check if it copies products.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It said last month it helped make Spotify successful and the service is seeking all the benefits of the app store without making any contribution. Google declined to comment.

Dutch regulators may widen their investigation, asking app developers to come forward if they also see issues with Google’s Play Store.

"App providers say they do not always have a fair chance against Apple’s own apps or against apps that Google has pre-installed on phones," the ACM said, citing a report on the apps market it published on Thursday. Developers also complain about having to use Apple and Google payment systems for in-app purchases, a 30 percent change on sales for the first year, limited iPhone functionality and difficulty communicating with Apple and Google.

"These problems, together with the indications submitted by app providers, are sufficient reason for ACM to launch an investigation into Apple’s behavior," the authority said.

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