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ACM to assess adjusted proposal of Apple regarding its conditions for dating apps

On Sunday, March 27, Apple adjusted its proposal concerning compliance with the requirements set by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) under Dutch and European competition rules. ACM welcomes Apple’s current step. The adjusted proposal should result in definitive conditions for dating-app providers that wish to use the App Store. Once the proposal for definitive conditions has been received, ACM will submit it to market participants for consultation. ACM will then as soon as possible hand down its decision whether Apple, when implementing those definitive conditions, is in compliance with ACM’s requirement that alternative methods of payment should be possible in dating apps.

Until last weekend, Apple still had not met ACM’s requirements. That is why it has to pay a tenth penalty payment, which means that Apple must pay the maximum penalty of 50 million euros. If ACM comes to the conclusion that Apple does not meet the requirements, ACM may impose another order subject to periodic penalty payments (with possibly higher penalties this time around) in order to stimulate Apple to comply with the order.

Dating apps

Various dating services exist on the Dutch market, which offer their services through apps. Since most consumers own an Android-based smartphone or an iPhone, most dating apps use the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. In order to maximize their reach, dating apps must therefore be available in both of these stores. After all, consumers also wish to reach other consumers with different types of smartphones.

On iPhones, dating apps can only be offered through the App Store, which makes dating-app providers highly dependent on Apple. Dating-app providers thus have little choice but to accept Apple’s conditions. As Apple thus has a dominant position, strict rules apply to this situation. Under Dutch and European competition rules, that dominant position cannot be abused, for example, by setting unfair conditions.

ACM and the digital economy

The digital economy is a key topic on ACM’s Agenda. People and businesses must be protected against online misleading practices and market power. In order to tackle abuses of dominant positions, ACM conducts investigations, and is able to impose sanctions on businesses, including fines and orders subject to periodic penalty payments. In addition, ACM is a proponent of the upcoming amendments to the European rules that stipulate that major companies and platforms must grant access to their platforms or technologies. Also, ACM has published its ‘Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer’. These guidelines have been based on European consumer protection rules, and explain at what point online persuasion turns into deception. These guidelines form the basis for investigations and enforcement actions by ACM. In that way, ACM ensures that online markets, too, work well for people and businesses.

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