It was already clear that Apple’s Core Technology Fee would come in for close scrutiny by the EU, but an interview with the bloc’s antitrust chief has revealed that the company could also be headed for trouble with its security warnings about alternative app stores.

While Apple was not directly named, there was little doubt who Margrethe Vestager was referencing when she described such warnings as “unwise” …

Core Technology Fee

Any developer wanting to opt out of the App Store, and sell its apps through either an alternative app store or its own website, has to pay Apple a “Core Technology Fee” (CTF) of 50 Euro cents per install per year.

The fee only applies once an app exceeds a million installs, but fears have been expressed that this would make it impossible to offer a popular free app. A specific concern about this was raised by Riley Testut, the creator of AltStore.

Testut explained that in high school, he created an app – which was distributed outside the App Store – that received 10 million downloads. Under the new App Store Guidelines, Testut would owe Apple €5 million due to the Core Technology Fee.

Apple was asked whether it would really bankrupt indie developers whose apps went viral, and the company admitted that it doesn’t yet have a solution to the problem.

Vestager told Reuters that the EU would be investigating the CTF.

“There are things that we take a keen interest in, for instance, if the new Apple fee structure will de facto not make it in any way attractive to use the benefits of the DMA. That kind of thing is what we will be investigating,” she told Reuters in an interview.

Apple’s DMA security warnings

Another tack taken by Apple to discourage iPhone owners to buy apps from third-party app stores is to issue security warnings.

We’ve been very clear about new threats the DMA introduces — including increased risks for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and objectionable content, and reduced ability for Apple to respond to and remove malicious apps.

Vestager described this behavior as “unwise.”

Vestager also warned companies against discouraging users from switching to rivals by disparaging them, saying this kind of behaviour could trigger an investigation […]

“I would think of it as unwise to say that the services are not safe to use, because that has nothing to do with the DMA. The DMA is there to open the market for other service providers to get to you and how your service provider of your operating system, how they will make sure that it is safe is for them to decide,” she said.

“And of course, if we see or get the suspicion that this is in order to say that someone else are not doing their job of course, we might take initiatives to look into that.”

She added that the EU had received “quite a lot” of comments about the proposed compliance measures put forward by companies affected by the DMA.

Photo by Mariia Shalabaieva on Unsplash

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