Telegram, the messaging app, has become the latest company to file a formal antitrust complaint to the EU over Apple’s App Store.
In a complaint to EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, Telegram, which has more than 400m users, said Apple must “allow users to have the opportunity of downloading software outside of the App Store”.
In June, Ms Vestager announced two antitrust investigations into Apple, one of which concerned the App Store. Apple’s conflicts with developers over the rules of the App Store have also escalated recently.
Both Spotify and Rakuten have previously complained to the EU that the app store represents a monopoly power, given that developers have to accept Apple’s terms, including a 30 per cent commission on in-app purchases, in order to reach the hundreds of millions of people who use iPhones.
Apple’s App Store fees across the world are estimated to generate more than $1bn for the company each month.
In its complaint, Telegram took issue with Apple’s argument that the App Store commission keeps it running.
In a post this week, Mr Durov said: “Every quarter, Apple receives billions of dollars from third-party apps. Meanwhile, the expenses required to host and review these apps are in the tens of millions, not billions of dollars. We know that because we at Telegram host and review more public content than the App Store ever will.”
The messaging app, which was co-founded by Russian tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov and his brother in 2013, accused Apple of halting innovation.
Telegram said that in 2016 Apple restricted the messaging app from launching a gaming platform on the grounds that it went against App Store rules. Telegram risked being deleted from the App Store and dismantled the venture.
Telegram alleged that this is an example of Apple’s capacity to curb innovation thanks to its “monopolistic power” on the app market.
“For that same reason Apple is able to charge a colossal 30 per cent commission on turnover of any digital service provided by the applications on the App Store, including but not limited to the sales of the apps themselves or any fees for premium services on those apps,” the complaint added.
Apple has repeatedly denied allegations of anti-competitive behaviour. In a statement ahead of a congressional hearing, Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, accepted scrutiny of the App Store to be “reasonable and appropriate” but defended his company’s business practices. He said Apple believed “competition is a great virtue (which) promotes innovation”.
Telegram, which has been used by demonstrators — most notably in Hong Kong — and drawn attacks from governments including China, has previously accused Apple of blocking updates as it faced mounting pressure in Russia. A two-year ban in the country for Telegram has recently been lifted.
The other open probe in the EU against Apple concerns Apple Pay. The investigations are likely to run for several months or even years.