Facebook turned its fire on Apple, complaining to the EU about App Store rules and the threat to block ad trackers

Tim Cook Mark Zuckerberg
Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Facebook took an unusually aggressive stance against Apple in a filing to the EU on Tuesday.
  • Facebook told Europe's competition watchdog that Apple has made "policy and enforcement decisions that privilege its own services and revenue streams to the detriment of others."
  • It specifically named two high-profile fights with Apple over the Facebook Gaming app and Apple's plan to make it harder for ad trackers to track users without their explicit consent.
  • Facebook's complaint is intended to influence proposed EU legislation in order to curb Apple's power.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook has dug the knife into Apple, complaining to the EU with the express aim of docking the iPhone maker's power.

In a formal submission to an EU consultation on Tuesday, Facebook listed a number of complaints about the way Apple runs the App Store.

The EU is consulting about the forthcoming Digital Services Act, a proposed new law that will curb the power of the major US platforms, including Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

In its consultation document, the EU's competition watchdog asked: "As a business user of large online platforms, do you encounter issues concerning trading conditions on large online platform companies?"

Facebook ticked the "Yes" box in its response, writing: "The App Store is effectively the only way for developers to reach consumers on Apple devices.

"Like any app developer, we have faced challenges in the application of Apple's policies and technical controls around in-app payments, gaming apps, log-in tools, and online advertising ... In each category, Apple has made policy and enforcement decisions that privilege its own services and revenue streams to the detriment of others."

Facebook EU consultation
Facebook told the EU's competition watchdog it had run into issues with Apple.

Facebook's submission appears to be a direct attempt to influence the proposed legislation against Apple.

Tension between the two tech giants has been building over the past few months, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying in an interview this week Apple's App Store rules "deserve scrutiny" — although he stopped short of calling for government intervention.

Facebook's submission to the EU specifically went into detail on two high-profile disputes with Apple. 

Apple vs Facebook Gaming

The first is over Facebook's game-streaming app Facebook Gaming, which launched on iOS in August, four months after it launched on Android.

Facebook was forced to launch the iOS without any games to comply with Apple's rules forbidding distributing games from storefronts other than the App Store.

"With regards to Apple it is well known that mobile games are the most lucrative category of mobile apps worldwide. A significant portion of Apple's mobile OS revenue comes from purchases of games distributed directly through the App Store, and purchases made from within those games," Facebook wrote.

"By largely prohibiting other developers from offering apps that enable consumers to access games not directly distributed through the App Store, Apple is ensuring that consumers on iOS can primarily purchase games and related services only from Apple, and not from other developers," Facebook added.

Reducing ad tracking

Facebook's second major complaint didn't specifically name Apple, but appeared to pertain to an upcoming iOS feature.

"We are particularly concerned about policy changes that may affect developers' ability to offer services that compete with the platform's own services. For example, large operating system/app store platforms increasingly are imposing tight restrictions around developers' access to data and to combine data collected across different apps and websites," Facebook wrote.

Apple has an upcoming feature that will stop ad trackers on apps from harvesting data unless the user explicitly opts in.

Facebook said in August the new feature would have the potential to slash its Audience Network ad network revenue by up to 50%. Apple announced in September that it would postpone the feature's rollout, which had been slated to come into force with this month's iOS 14 update, until 2021.

Facebook seemed to suggest Apple may use the restrictions to broaden its advertising presence and monopolize the market.

"It is unclear whether the large platforms imposing these restrictions will themselves be subject to such restrictions — or whether their own increasing advertising efforts will continue without such restraints either by not applying the same constraints on their own services or by leveraging solutions they don't make available to third parties," Facebook said.

"We are concerned these restrictions may also be motivated, in part, by the platforms' own business interests such as the increased revenue that some may attain by pushing developers toward in-app payments, of which platforms often claim a significant portion," it added.

Facebook also recently tangled with Apple over the 30% commission it takes on all in-app payments.

Facebook asked Apple to waive this fee for a new Facebook feature allowing users to buy tickets for virtual events. Apple refused, and Facebook decried the move saying it would hurt small businesses selling their tickets on the platform.

Facebook was not available for further comment on its submission to the EU when contacted by Business Insider, and Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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