Acknowledging App Store Abuse Allegations
Apple has settled a Rbs1.18bn ($12.3mn) fine with Russia’s state budget following a Moscow court’s verdict that the tech giant abused its dominant market position through the App Store. Russia’s anti-monopoly watchdog, FAS, confirmed the payment, a result of a November ruling that found Apple preventing app developers from informing customers about alternative payment methods outside the App Store.
This payment directly contributes to the Russian budget, providing financial support to President Vladimir Putin’s government amidst heightened defense spending for the war in Ukraine. The conflict between Apple and Russia’s competition regulator predates the invasion in February 2022, and this isn’t the first fine Apple has paid in this regard. A year earlier, the company paid a Rbs906mn ($10.1mn) fine for a different antimonopoly law violation.
To pay fines imposed by the Russian government, U.S. companies, including Apple, must seek permission from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the body enforcing trade controls. Both Apple and the U.S. Treasury have not immediately responded to requests for comment.
The story notes that western sanctions led several tech companies, including Intel, Samsung, and IBM, to suspend business in Russia. While Apple ceased physical product sales in 2022, its App Store and some subscription services remain active. However, the company has removed apps from Russian propaganda outlets and sanctioned Russian banks from its mobile store.
Despite challenges, Russians continue to access iPhones through third countries, with many banks creating disguised app versions under innocuous names. Apple’s efforts to remove sanctioned developers have prompted this workaround. The iPhone 15, for example, is available in Russia through various channels at mark-ups compared to the U.S. price.
The App Store’s policies have faced scrutiny globally, with a U.S. federal court finding rules preventing developers from steering customers outside their apps. Apple recently adjusted its rules in the U.S. to comply. Additionally, new EU legislation is compelling the company to allow “sideloading,” enabling iPhone users to download apps from sources other than the App Store.