Apple’s new streaming music service is under scrutiny by government officials, consumer watchdogs, and a state senator.
The Federal Trade Commission reportedly launched an investigation into the 30 percent fee Cupertino charges subscription services that sign up new users through the iTunes App Store, though the agency declined to comment.
Apple’s music program also caught the attention of the U.S. Justice Department, which in May began keeping a close watch on Apple’s negotiating tactics, which allegedly aimed to end programs like Spotify’s free, ad-supported music tier.
Now, Sen. Al Franken has penned a letter to the FTC and DOJ, asking them to examine Apple’s potentially anticompetitive behavior.
“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,” Franken wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
“While I am encouraged to see increased competition in this market,” he continued, “I am concerned about certain business practices that have the potential to limit choices and raise prices for customers.”
The Minnesota Democrat specifically calls out Apple’s non-negotiable 30 percent fee, which, for companies like Spotify that charge a fairly standard $9.99 per month, means an additional $3 per subscription purchased on an iOS device. In other words, you can sign up for the service via the App Store for $12.99, or through the company’s own website for $9.99.
“Increased competition in the music streaming market should mean that consumers will ultimately benefit through more choices of better products and at lower prices,” Franken said. “I am concerned, however, that Apple’s position as a dominant platform operator may actually undermine many of the potential customer benefits of its entry into the market.”
Nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog also addressed the DOJ and FTC, writing in a separate letter that Apple Music raises “serious antitrust concerns” that require government-issued limitations.
Last month, in advance of the Apple Music launch, The Financial Times reported that Apple was considering a change to its 70/30 App Store split, but no announcements have been made.
For more, see Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which Is Best? and How to Stop Apple Music Auto-Renewal.