EU Says Apple Streaming Music Deals didn't Violate Antitrust Laws

Apple didn't collude with record labels to kill free streaming music services from competitors such as Spotify. That's the conclusion the European Commission came to after its investigation failed to turn up any evidence to show otherwise.

EU on Apple streaming music antitrust violations: NopeEU on Apple streaming music antitrust violations: Nope

The EU started looking into the claims earlier this year before Apple Music was officially announced. Record labels were questioned about their dealings with Apple to determine if the iPhone and iPad maker used its market strength to try to gain an unfair advantage in the streaming music space.

Insider sources said the EU will continue to watch the streaming music sources despite the findings, according to Re/code. That's no surprise since the part of the Commission's duties include overseeing fair competition in European markets.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been conducting a similar probe for the past few months, too. One insider characterized Apple's negotiating tactics as "cutthroat."

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) recently called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Apple's streaming music business practices, too. He voiced concerns over the possibility that Apple has been strong arming record labels into pulling the free music tier options from its streaming music service deals, and that the company has an unfair advantage in the market because rivals must pay out a 30 percent cut for subscribers who sign up through in-app purchases on iOS devices.

"As the digital music industry continues to evolve, we must ensure that this relatively new market allows for meaningful competition and that consumers have access to important information about the products and services available to them," Mr. Franken said.

Now that the EU's findings are in, Apple is waiting to see how the U.S. government views its business practices. Considering a Federal Court ruled Apple violated antitrust laws over pricing in the face of Amazon's monopoly control over the book market, it's likely the company isn't holding its breath waiting for a ruling in line with the EU.

In the previous case, Apple and book publishers were accused of conspiring to artificially raise the price of books. Apple said it didn't engage in antitrust behavior and was trying to break into a market controlled by Amazon. Apple and the publishers said Amazon sold books below cost to drive competitors out of the market.

The court ultimately ruled against Apple and placed a monitor in the company to make sure similar activities didn't take place in the future. Apple is appealing the ruling and maintains it did nothing wrong.

Apple also faced an antitrust investigation from the Attorneys General from New York and Connecticut over the same streaming music claims. That investigation concluded there weren't any violations, which could bode well for Apple when the Federal investigations wrap up.

Apple Music launched at the end of June and currently has about 11 million subscribers, all of whom are in the service's three month free trial period. In contrast, Spotify has about 75 million subscribers, with 20 million paying for the service.

Apple has not commented on the EU findings.