The terms let Apple take 30% of all subscriptions sold through its App Store, including magazines and newspapers.
In fact, there are no investigations at this point, just some officials “looking at” the new terms. In the U.S., at least, an antitrust lawsuit probably wouldn’t get very far: Apple doesn’t have dominant market share in either smartphones or portable computers.
But as a reader pointed out, there’s one way that antitrust regulators might get Apple to back down.
The trick is Europe. In the EU, regulators have broad powers to demand documents and other information before they decide to launch a formal investigation or lawsuit.
There’s a precedent here. In April 2010, Apple changed its rules for developers to ban them from using non-approved tools, including Flash-based development tools, to create apps for the iPhone. Adobe was not pleased.
In May, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission began looking at the changes. Although it was unreported until August, the EU also started a couple of informal investigations at the same time.
With the new subscription rules, the EU is just “carefully monitoring” the situation at this point. But if “carefully monitoring” turns into “preliminary investigation,” Apple may decide once again that the rules need to be relaxed.