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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Compares Apple App Store Rules to Playing Ping-Pong Blindfolded
Streaming music giant Spotify decided to file an antitrust complaint against Apple in Europe to avoid a marketplace with a "small group of dominant platforms," CEO Daniel Ek said in an appearance in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, comparing Apple's App Store rules for competitors like Spotify to a ping-pong game, in which one side is blindfolded.
"Taking on a company of Apple’s scale, influence and financial means was not an easy decision," he said, according to a copy of his remarks, adding it took "months of careful consideration."
And he argued that it was time to make a key decision. "Do we want a few select, dominant platforms to have the power to strong-arm others and tax the rest of the ecosystem, taking away the ability for smaller companies to effectively compete?" Ek said at the International Conference on Competition in the German capital. "Or do we want a healthy ecosystem where real competition flourishes and where consumer choice wins?"
He called for fair and healthy competition, saying, "At Spotify, we love to compete. And when it comes to winning consumers, we want to compete fiercely. We have ping-pong tables in every major office for this very reason. It’s really in our DNA."
Ek highlighted that Apple "should be able to impose certain restrictions on the apps that can be purchased for use on its devices" when that is about "ensuring key levels of quality, safety and security." He added, "That is acceptable and understandable. But they shouldn’t be permitted to impose restrictions that break the law and cause consumers harm in the process, for the sole purpose of disadvantaging competitors." Concluded Ek: "It’s like inviting you to a match on our ping-pong table and then forcing you to play blindfolded while we change the rules throughout the game."
His comments came a day after Spotify filed its competition complaint with the European Commission, the regulatory body of the European Union.
"In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience -- essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers," Ek had said in a Wednesday blog post.
"Over time, Apple has put its interest as a competitor ahead of its role as a neutral platform provider," he added in Berlin on Thursday.
The Spotify CEO concluded by outlining his hopes for the European Commission's review of the complaint against Apple. "We are confident the Commission will carefully examine the facts we have presented and do what’s in the best interest of consumers. There is still time to create a level playing field, in which competition happens on the merits of the service. Businesses big and small are counting on the Commission. Consumers are counting on the Commission. And I am looking to you for guidance as we navigate this uncharted territory."