European Commission Finds Apple Is in Breach of DMA Rules

The European Commission:

Today, the European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that its App Store rules are in breach of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), as they prevent app developers from freely steering consumers to alternative channels for offers and content.

The problems cited by the Commission are so far entirely related to in-app referrals for external purchases. The Commission additionally says it is looking into Apple’s terms for third-party app stores — including the Core Technology Fee — but that is not what these specific findings are about.


In the DMA, the ground rule is for sideloading apps to be allowed, and to only very minimally be reigned in under very specific conditions. Apple chose to take these conditions and lawyer them into “always, unless you pay us sums of money that are plainly prohibitive for most actors”. Apple knew the rules and understood the intent and chose to evade them, in order to retain additional income.

Separately, earlier this month — the weekend before WWDC, in fact — Apple rejected an emulator after holding it in review for two months.

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

App Review has rejected a submission from the developers of UTM, a generic PC system emulator for iPhone and iPad.

The open source app was submitted to the store, given the recent rule change that allows retro game console emulators, like Delta or Folium. App Review rejected UTM, deciding that a “PC is not a console”. What is more surprising, is the fact that UTM says that Apple is also blocking the app from being listed in third-party app stores in the EU.

Michael Tsai compiled the many disapproving reactions to Apple’s decision, adding:

The bottom line for me is that Apple doesn’t want general-purpose emulators, it’s questionable whether the DMA lets it block them, and even siding with Apple on this it isn’t consistently applying its own rules.

Jason Snell, Six Colors:

The whole point of the DMA is that Apple does not get to act as an arbitrary approver or disapprover of apps. If Apple can still reject or approve apps as it sees fit, what’s the point of the DMA in the first place?

The Commission continues:

In parallel, the Commission will continue undertaking preliminary investigative steps outside of the scope of the present investigation, in particular with respect to the checks and reviews put in place by Apple to validate apps and alternative app stores to be sideloaded.

Riley Testut:

When we first met with the EC a few months ago, we were asked repeatedly if we trusted Apple to be in charge of Notarization. We emphatically said yes.

However, it’s clear to us now that Apple is indeed using Notarization to not only delay our apps, but also to determine on a case-by-case basis how to undermine each release — such as by changing the App Store rules to allow them

If you are somebody who believes it is only fair to take someone at their word and assume good faith, I am right there with you. Even though Apple has a long history of capricious App Review processes, it was fair to consider its approach to the E.U. a begrudging but earnest attempt at compliance. Even E.U. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager did, telling CNBC she was “very surprised that we would have such suspicions of Apple being non-compliant”.

That is, however, a rather difficult position to maintain, given the growing evidence Apple seems determined to evade both the letter and spirit of this legislation. Perhaps there are legitimate security concerns in the UTM emulator. The burden of proof for that claim rests on Apple, however, and its ability to be a reliable narrator is sometimes questionable. Consider the possible conflicts of interest in App Tracking Transparency rules raised by German competition authorities.

Manton Reece:

When a company withholds a feature from the EU because of the DMA — Apple for AI, Meta today for the fediverse — they should document which sections of the DMA would potentially be violated. Let users fact-check whether there’s a real problem.

Agreed. This would allow people to understand what businesses see are the limitations of the DMA on the merits. Users may not be the best judge of whether a legal problem exists — especially since laws get interpreted and reinterpreted by different experts all the time — but any details would be better than a void filled with speculation.