Apple Music Model Scrutinized By Consumer Watchdog Group Over Antitrust Concerns

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Apple is once again coming under fire for business practices and deals around Apple Music, the subscription music and video streaming service it launched last month. Consumer Watchdog, a prominent consumer advocacy group, issued a letter to the United States Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice today, asking the government to put restrictions on Apple’s “plans to dominate the subscription music sector” while citing “serious antitrust concerns” based on information it received.

While the group notes that it typically praises Apple on issues concerning consumer privacy and the like, it wrote today that Apple leveraging its market power to push Apple Music is “very disconcerting” and compared it to the infamous e-books case when Apple launched iBooks.

The letter explains that Apple’s prior access to over 800 million credit cards connected to the free trial for Apple Music raises concerns for fair competition. It goes on to address Apple’s access to music preference data from hundreds of millions of customers from running the iTunes Store, adding that Apple could cut deals with artists directly if music labels didn’t agree with their terms for streaming music.

At issue, in fact, is the proprietary information that Apple possesses about its subscribers’ credit cards and musical preferences, which it is leveraging over music labels in an attempt to rub out free (commercial sponsored) music platforms. In this regard, Apple is utilizing its market power in much the way the company did in setting e-book prices.

The letter also echoes previous concerns from others over Apple’s App Store policy of taking a cut of subscription revenue from third-party apps including Spotify while it doesn’t face the same fee obviously for its own service.

Consumer Watchdog’s complaint is only the latest to surface since news developed that Apple was even planning to introduce a new music streaming after buying Beats Music last year.

Both the European Commission and the Department of Justice are already said to be conducting an antitrust investigation over Apple Music with competitor Spotify said to be behind some of the complaints. Universal Music Group wrote a letter in June claiming that it had no illegal deals with Apple that would restrict other services from thriving.

Similarly, it was reported earlier this month that the United States Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating Apple’s App Store subscription rules following Apple Music’s launch. You can read Consumer Watchdog’s complete letter to the FTC and DOJ here.

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