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Apple’s standoff with Dutch antitrust authority over dating app payments continues – TechCrunch

The Dutch competition authority has again increased the fine imposed on Apple for failing to comply with an antitrust order related to payment technologies and dating apps.

The fifth fine of €5m issued today means the tech giant is now liable for €25m (out of a possible total of €50m) – and is accused of continuing to erect barriers rather than offering solutions by a very exasperated -sound regulator.

In a statement, the Consumers and Markets Authority (ACM) said:

“During the past week, we have not received any new proposals from Apple with which they would comply with the ACM requirements. This is why Apple will have to pay a fifth penalty. This means that the total amount of all penalty payments currently amounts to 25 million euros.

“We have made it clear to Apple how they can comply with ACM requirements. So far, however, they have refused to make serious offers. We regret Apple’s attitude, especially since ACM’s demands were upheld by the court on December 24. Apple’s so-called “solutions” continue to create too many obstacles for dating app providers who want to use their own payment systems.

“We have established that Apple is a dominant company. With this comes additional responsibilities to its buyers and, more broadly, to society as a whole. Apple must set reasonable terms for the use of its services. In this context, it cannot abuse its dominant position. Apple’s conditions will therefore have to take into account the interests of buyers.

A spokesperson for the regulator confirmed that Apple has not made any new proposals since those last week were deemed “unreasonable”.

“We expect Apple to comply with the order,” they added. “If they don’t, we have the option of imposing another penalty order.”

Apple has been contacted for a response to the ACM’s latest fine, but the company’s communications department has kept its powder dry in recent weeks as fines and charges mount.

The struggle between a competition regulator in a single (small) European country trying to enforce a complaint by a subset of apps wanting to sell digital content without being forced to give Apple a large chunk of their revenue and a platform giant bent on retaining control of its ecosystem, or – at the very least – its ability to charge a hefty commission on in-app purchases, as it may – seems instructive in that it foreshadows battles well bigger ones to come, once the EU (and other jurisdictions) adopt (and enforce) tough new ex ante regulations against tech giants, complete with penalties.

Under the EU’s proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA), for example, whose adoption is accelerating, platforms that are considered “gatekeepers” and breach a list of “backs and pre-defined and operational “don’ts” could face penalties of up to 10% of their worldwide annual turnover.

Which – in Apple’s case – would mean a fine closer to €25 billion than €25 million (so certainly harder for Cupertino to ignore).

Even so, it’s clear that regulators will face an enormous task trying to get the resource-rich tech giants to dance to their exact beat.

Apple’s response to the ACM complaint has shown that it is unwilling to simply give up a lucrative revenue stream just because a regulator decides it’s unfair – and will oppose it by reconfiguring its operations to find a new way to extract roughly the same fees… (Apple said it will charge Dutch dating apps using third-party payment technology a 27% fee on sales compared to App Store’s standard 30% commission).

Staying on top of fast-iterating tech giants — which can have strong incentives to circumvent regulatory limitations, especially those that challenge their revenue — is a game we’ve seen before very easily lost to a endless delay.