Apple removed HMV’s new iOS app from its App Store yesterday, after realising belatedly that it was allowing people to buy music downloads within the app – a well-established no-no on iOS.
Now the UK’s Entertainment Retailers Association has entered the fray, criticising Apple, suggesting that the ban raises competition issues, and calling for a change in policy.
“The dispute between HMV and iTunes highlights, we believe, serious issues of competition in the digital entertainment world,” claims ERA in a statement.
“iTunes is by far the dominant player in music downloads with a marketshare estimated to be over 70%, but just as importantly it also maintains an iron grip on access to the hugely powerful iPhone/iPad platform, which effectively hinders competitors from reaching millions of consumers and stands in the way of innovation.”
We’ll be interested to see how widely this line of thinking goes: is there a serious chance that Apple could find itself in hot water with regulators? iTunes may be dominant in the music downloads space, but Apple *is* allowing streaming services like Spotify and Deezer onto its App Store.
Meanwhile, in the bigger scheme of things iPhone is a relatively-niche player compared to Android for smartphone sales, while iPad’s tablet share is being eroded by Android too. Which is not to say there isn’t an argument that its policy is concerning on competition grounds – more to wonder how courts would react if a case was taken forward.
“With market power comes responsibility and we urge iTunes to act responsibly and allow the development of a free market in music online,” concludes ERA’s statement.
Watch this row continue to rumble. HMV is questioning why the app was approved last month by Apple then un-approved once it went live and started getting press coverage. For its part, Apple maintains that the app is clearly “violating App Store guidelines”, citing clause 11.13 in particular: “Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected”.