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Belgians, Dutch: Apple's iTunes-only subs anti-competitive

updated 02:15 pm EST, Thu January 20, 2011

Belgium, Netherlands worried over iPad sub limits

Apple's recent decision to ban print subscription tie-ins on iPads may trigger a European investigation into possible accusations of being anti-competitive. Belgium's economy minister Vincent van Quickborne said this week that he would have the low country's Competition Authority investigate whether Apple was overstepping its bounds by requiring that any subscription plans go through iTunes. Moves in both Belgium and the Netherlands could violate antitrust law by preventing publishers from using their own subscription methods, van Quickborne said.

The official has a reputation for being critical of Apple's frequent attempts to become the sole arbiter of how content reaches its devices. He has criticized Apple's filters on what can reach its stores in the past.

Any legal action might be welcomed by publishers that have complained that it would not only take a cut from their subscriptions, even when unnecessary, but would also limit their flexibility. The limitation hasn't been put into place in North America, but if spread to other areas could shut down access to the iPad versions of the Economist, People and other magazines that give free iPad access as an incentive to customers. They also can't collect voluntary subscriber data under Apple's current iTunes model.

A handful of publishers have considered publishing on Android, where the restrictions on both app development and privacy are looser. Publications may not get significant traction on the platform until a rumored Google newsstand service goes live as soon as this year. [via mocoNews]

Van Quickenborne laat iPad-beleid Apple onderzoeken

By Electronista Staff


  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Mar 2009


    been said before...

    Apple provides a complete product. If these countries don't like, then don't buy it, but let Apple provide a service the way they want to. If the publishers don't want to abide by it, then go ahead and try and get any money from the Android store. It's been published before that Android users don't like to pay anything for any application so I doubt they will pay for a magazine subscription.

    I haven't bought a magazine subscription through the Apple store either because I don't see any reason to get a flat pdf version of a printed magazine. Give me something other than what I can get in a grocery store and I might look at it.

  1. tortenteufel

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2007


    Investigating is good...

    and when you're at it, investigate the possibility of forming a new government. I hear Gillette is complaining.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: Apr 1999



    The policy in question is incredibly hostile to Apple customers' interests. If only the FTC and DoJ could be bothered to investigate anti-competitive behavior like this.

  1. joecab

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2004


    I'm fine with the investigation

    It may prod Apple into coming up with a better plan for this. Apple deserves to get a cut, but print subscribers shouldn't get dinged twice on these already too expensive iPad subs, either. It could also just be Apple throwing out their most favorable plan with the expectation that it would get whittled down to something more equitable.

  1. Parky

    Mac Elite

    Joined: Oct 1999



    If they don't like the terms of the deal they are not forced to publish via Apple or the App Store.
    They make it sound like 'we are forced to publish via Apple'!!!, which they are not.
    If they want access to the Apple Store and all it's devices then the deal is the deal, if they don't then go to market anyway you like, free choice.

  1. chippie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2009


    I Can Not Believe That Some People Don't See

    what is wrong with apple selling products(most of which are considered computers) and then attempting to make it impossible for the owners to upgrade components or download and install whatever they wish. As this is normally how people use their computers! And then to have the audacity to expect to be paid to allow owners to engage in either activity.!? Imagine if the maker of your refrigerator made it impossible for you to change the light bulb and expected at least 30% of the price of any food, drinks, batteries, perfume or whatever else you put into it. And I suppose the magnets and the value of any masterworks of your children displayed on it. Imagine if Nike made it impossible to change your shoestrings and expected 30% of the cost of any polish and waterproofing agent used on the shoes. Clearly the authorities in America( home of the free) don't see this as a violation of consumer rights, but thanks goodness the Europeans do. Because it is!

  1. chippie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2009



    You miss the point that people who own the devices may want the publications to be available to them on which ever type of computing device they use. This dream/wish of apple's is looking like totalitarianism. Apple the new Iraq. Is this truly the path it hopes to lead paying customers down? When apple lends it devices for free and upgrades them yearly, I might see some value in this! If with lion OS( or later apple OS) the user is only able to download and install via the app store, I will not be purchasing any more apple computers. Once you MUST do this thru the app store, apple will have that much more information about you. And yes this will be more than they currently have. Utterly out of order!

  1. csimon2

    Junior Member

    Joined: Aug 2000


    How are the "free" subs delivered?

    I'm asking because I don't know, but are the subscriptions delivered via the App Store? Or are they delivered from within the app via a web server? If the subscription updates are delivered via the App Store, then Apple has every right to ban free updates on dollars being earned/spent elsewhere to set up the subscription. After all, its Apple's bandwidth that is being used for the delivery, which they should be compensated for. If the subscriptions require just a one time purchase of the app, and new content is delivered within the app via the publisher's own web services, then Apple's ban may in fact be anti-competitive.

  1. chippie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2009



    Looks like you hit more clearly upon another reason this is out of order. If owners of apple computers are allowed to download from where they choose, the cost of bandwidth will not necessarily be partially on apple( we consumers pay to have a connection also). Apple seems to want to force the downloads to come through apple's servers when up to now on whatever brand computer used this issue is between the software provider and the downloader. Microsoft has been forced in Europe to offer owners a choice between about 10 browsers the very first time a windows computer is turned on. Will Europe have to Force apple to put huge warning stickers on apple products stating:" AFTER PURCHASE THIS REMAINS THE SOLE PROPERTY OF APPLE INC AND THIS PURCHASE CAN ONLY BE USED EXACTLY AS APPLE INC WISHES IT TO BE USED." I can not think of any other product that get this treatment.

  1. philozopher

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2006


    The App Store isn't the only way into iOS devices

    Apple has pointed this out repeatedly: Anyone can distribute their content to iPads & iPhones through the Web Browser. Subscribers to the Economist can get the iPhone/iPhad app if they want, or they can just read the same articles online.

    If you want to jailbreak your phone (legal), they can do what they want with the phone. Apple doesn't want you using their Store with a Jailbroken device, and they won't honour the warranty either, but you still have that choice.

    What's in the consumer's interest is have a choice, and Apple has given them that 1000% over. Thanks to the iPod, digital music, media, and content are now omnipresent and high quality. If we'd left things up to Sony we'd have ATRAC on mini-discs (spurned by consumers), or something from Nokia that never quite made it.

    Apple is the victor in this space by virtue of a superior product that someone else could have invented and now they are reaping their just rewards. In the long run they will have to make some concessions, but not until Android forces it upon them.

    I invite anyone to do better.

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