Apple App Store and Apple Pay targeted by EU antitrust regulators

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Apple on Tuesday was the target of two EU antitrust investigations on the App Store and Apple Pay, while the bloc increased the heat of online gatekeepers for alleged anti-competitive business practices designed to block rivals.

ARCHIVE PHOTO: An Apple iPhone 6 with Apple Pay is shown in this illustration in Encinitas, California, USA, on June 3, 2015. REUTERS / Mike Blake / File Photo

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The European Commission said an investigation would look at the system's mandatory use and Apple's proprietary purchasing rules, preventing application developers from informing iPhone and iPad users about cheaper options elsewhere.

The case came after a complaint by the Swedish music streaming service Spotify (SPOT.N) last year, which claimed that Apple was unfairly restricting rivals to its own music steam service, Apple Music. Another complaint was the 30% fee charged to application developers.

Spotify welcomed the EU investigation, saying it expected regulators to deal with the case urgently. A smaller rival filed a similar complaint related to e-books and audiobooks in March this year.

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"It looks like Apple has taken on a" guardian "role when it comes to distributing apps and content to users of popular Apple devices," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The second case focuses on Apple's terms and conditions on how its Apple Pay mobile payment service should be used on merchants' apps and websites, and also on the company's refusal to allow rivals to access the payment system.

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Regulators are also concerned that Apple Pay, launched in 2014 as the diversified company selling devices such as iPhones and iPads, is the only mobile payment service allowed to use the "tap and go" functionality on iPhones.

Apple criticized the EU's investigations.

"It is disappointing that the European Commission is making unfounded complaints from a handful of companies that simply want a free ride and don't want to follow the same rules as everyone else," the iPhone maker said in a statement.

"We don't think it is right. We want to maintain a level playing field where anyone with determination and a great idea can succeed."

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(This story is taken to remove extraneous text in the advice line, which you should read: Add comment from Apple)

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Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop / Jan Harvey / Jane Merriman

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