More than five years after the filing of a complaint by the French Minister of Economy and Finance, justice has just condemned Apple to a fine of one million euros, while dismissing Bercy on five points out of eleven…
At the end of a procedure initiated in 2017 by Bruno Le Maire, then already Minister of Economy and Finance, Apple has just been sentenced to a fine of just over one million euros by the court of trade in Paris. The court acknowledged that Apple imposed conditions that “are not balanced” to developers who use its download kiosk to distribute their applications.
The growing shadow of the new European regulation
Interestingly, the judgment that we were able to consult explains that there is no “place to order the Californian company under American law Apple Inc and the unlimited private company incorporated under Irish law Apple Distribution International Limited to cease, under penalty, the practices consisting in mentioning the disputed clauses in their contracts or in implementing them in any form”.
Why ? Simply because the giant will have to change its practices to meet the new requirements introduced by the European regulations on digital markets (DMA), which now constrain Apple “to comply with the requirements of the Minister of Economy and Finance and Recovery”.
The judgment is extremely clear on this particular point: “if the effects of the disputed clauses […] must effectively cease, the entry into force of the Legislation on the Digital Markets (Digital Markets Act), voted definitively by Europe on October 4, 2022, now imposes, everywhere in Europe, on Apple a rebalancing of the clauses in favor of developers. » The message is clear.
An unbalanced relationship
The complaint filed in 2017 was made public a year later in a context of diplomatic and economic tension. Indeed, Donald Trump intended to tax steel and aluminum imports into the United States.
The Minister of Economy and Finance accused in his complaint Apple and Google of taking advantage of their dominant position in the mobile applications market to impose tariffs on French developers and of assuming the right to power at any time and without reason. interrupt access to its service.
The Paris Commercial Court ruled in favor of Bercy on this point and retained a “significant imbalance” as well as a “significant legal and economic insecurity” linked both to the size of the American giant and its means, as well as to the impossibility for the developers to renegotiate the clauses of a contract with Apple.
A victory, despite everything?
However, of the eleven complaints alleged against Apple, the court dismissed five. And these are all small victories for the Cupertino company. Indeed, justice did not consider inappropriate the exclusivity of the payment system or the amount of commissions imposed by Apple (30 or 15%). For the court, these various points are not “obviously not excessive and are found very frequently in commerce whether online or physical”. This is a crucial point for Apple, which thus sees its economic model validated by a court decision.
In a statement provided to us by Apple, the American company says it believes “to dynamic and competitive markets where innovation can flourish. Through the App Store, we have helped French developers of all sizes to share their passion and creativity with users around the world, while creating a secure and trusted space for customers. » The American firm concludes its speech by stating that it will “consider this decision carefully and pursue [ses] efforts to support developers and provide a safe user experience “.
In view of some recent announcements, Apple has already started working on the subject to retain developers in case third-party App Stores emerge on iOS and iPadOS.
The obligation to evolve…
The upcoming application of Digital Markets Act could well force Apple to open the doors of its ecosystem. Besides, the engineers of the Californian titan would already be at work to comply with these requirements as soon as possible, as soon as iOS 17 is released. The future version of the mobile OS should be available free of charge to all iPhone users in September 2023.
Last March, Google was ordered to pay a fine of two million euros and was forced to modify seven clauses of its application distribution contract. The two giants have been under fire for several months at the global level, whether in court, on the part of legislators, or even on the side of developers.
Apple has eight days to advertise this court decision in three national daily newspapers, The world, Le Figaro and The echoes. If the American company and its European branches, particularly Irish, do not comply, they will be subject to a penalty of 10,000 euros per day.
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App Store: Apple fined one million euros in France for disputed contracts
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