Dutch Regulators Open Probe Into Apple’s Business Practices

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is facing an antitrust probe in the Netherlands into whether Apple abuses a dominant market position by favoring its own apps over those of its rivals. A statement from Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers & Markets said that evidence had been submitted that seems “to indicate that Apple abuses its position in the App Store.” The regulator has apparently been studying the issue for 10 months.

According to published reports, the investigation was triggered by the agency’s study into app stores. Indications of possible anti-competitive behavior by the iPhone maker were found when researching Dutch apps for news media. The probe will initially focus on Apple’s App Store, where regulators have received the most detailed complaints.

App providers have repeatedly aired their grievances about Apple’s practices to the ACM. The issues are numerous, from the onerous fees charged for sales made though the App Store to the difficulty communicating with Apple when issues of functionality occur. Having to use the Apple payment system for in-app purchases has also been an issue. The ACM said in its statement, “These problems, together with the indications submitted by app providers, are sufficient reason for ACM to launch an investigation into Apple’s behavior.”

Apple said in a statement that it treats all app developers equally. Apple wrote it is “confident” the investigation “will confirm all developers have an equal opportunity to succeed in the App Store.”

The announcement from the Dutch regulators comes just a few weeks after the European Union was asked by Swedish music streaming service Spotify Technology SA investigate Apple over it giving its own music service an unfair advantage over competitors. The European Commission is considering the complaint. Apple has denied the allegations and said that Spotify is just seeking to gain from all the benefits of the app store without making any contribution.