Apple submits a fresh offer to the Dutch antitrust authorities about dating app payments, racking up its ninth penalty

Apple was penalized once more in the Netherlands for violating an antitrust injunction relating to dating applications. The order mandates it to allow local dating applications to utilize third-party payment services if their developers so want, instead of being limited to Apple’s in-app payment API for iOS.

The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a series of (weekly) fines on Apple for alleged persistent noncompliance with the order. The additional €5 million fine (the ninth) raises Apple’s total fines on this problem to €45 million (out of a maximum of €50 million if the authority is not convinced within the next week).

The ACM has criticized Apple’s answer as unsatisfactory and unjustified, condemning it for establishing an extra obstacle for developers who wish to utilize non-Apple payment technologies to handle in-app purchases, instead of simply allowing developers to do so. The battle has lasted weeks, but despite yet another penalty, there could be a movement on Apple’s role: According to the ACM, Apple submitted “new suggestions”, one which claimed it is reviewing to evaluate whether they satisfy the constitutional standard.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of both the bloc’s antitrust division and digital policy development, particularly mentioned the Dutch case in a speech last month, accusing Apple of “essentially” preferring to pay periodic penalty fees instead of enforcing compliance with a competition ruling with which it disagrees. She also stated that third-party access duties for Apple’s App Store “would… be one of the conditions stipulated in the DMA.”

So, for tech heavyweights subject to the DMA, the “comply vs deny” calculations — which are only viable whenever a penalty can be carried off as a “cost of doing business” — are set for a fundamental rebalance under the EU’s relaunched antitrust framework. And where €5 million — or even €50 million — does not move the operations and maintenance needle, a penalty which might scale to several billion — supported by the risk that continued evasion of regulatory requirements will force regulatory authorities to approach their breakup hammers — appears to be a whole unique kettle of compliance fish.

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