Apple must pay a fine of 1 million euros in France, but why?

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The case dates back to 2017. At the time, Bruno Le Maire, already Minister of Economy and Finance, filed a complaint against Apple. He accuses the company of taking advantage of its dominant position in the mobile application market to impose tariffs on French developers and to authorize itself to interrupt access to its service at any time and for no reason.

The plaintiff’s arguments clearly convinced the Paris Commercial Court. He retained a “significant imbalance” as well as a “significant legal and economic insecurity” linked to the size and resources of Apple. The court also held that Apple prevented the developers from renegotiating the terms of the contract with it.

It therefore forces Apple “to comply with the requirements of the Minister of Economy and Finance and recovery”. In addition, Apple is condemned to pay a fine of just over one million euros.

The company has eight days to advertise this decision in three national daily newspapers: Le Monde, Le Figaro and The echoes. If she does not comply, she will have to pay a penalty payment of 10,000 euros per day of delay.

Half-hearted victory for the government

If Bercy was successful, it is mainly thanks to the new rules introduced by the European regulation on digital markets (Digital Markets Act). “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, imposes henceforth, everywhere in Europe, to Apple a rebalancing of clauses in favor of developers” can we read in the judgment.

Despite this condemnation, the Minister of Economy and Finance did not obtain satisfaction on all the grievances. Of the 11 accusations against Apple, the court dismissed five. For example, justice considered that the commission of 15% or 30% and the exclusivity of the payment system were not “obviously not excessive and are found very frequently in commerce whether online or physical”.

Following the judgment, Apple said it believes “to dynamic and competitive markets where innovation can flourish”. And to add:

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 company will consider this decision carefully and continue (its) efforts to support developers and provide a safe experience for users”.

Comply with European rules

Whether it likes it or not, Apple will have to adjust its rules in Europe anyway. the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act will indeed change the rules of digital technology and force the giants of the sector to adopt new behaviors.

For users, this will materialize in major software changes. For example, messaging services will all have to be interoperable. Understand that a message sent by iMessage must be able to arrive on WhatsApp.

Apple seems quite aware of these obligations. Its engineers have already started working on opening up its ecosystem, previously locked. Thus, the future version of iOS must be available free of charge for all iPhone users from September 2023. The company must also offer alternative application stores to the App Store to comply with competition rules. A hell of a job.

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