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Apple pays $13.7 million fine to Russian government over App Store monopoly charge

What just happened? Apple has paid a $13.65 million fine to the Russian government after a Moscow court found the company guilty of abusing its dominant market position through the iOS App Store. Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) ruled in November that Apple had prohibited app developers from informing users that they have the option to pay for their purchases outside of its store.

The FAS imposed a fine of almost 1.2 billion roubles (around $13.65 million) on Apple in January. The company paid the money on January 19, which the FAS says will go directly to the Russian budget at a time when the government is raising funds to support the war in Ukraine.

This isn’t the first time Apple has boosted Russia’s coffers since the war began in early 2022. The FAS said Apple paid a 906 million rouble ($12.12 million) fine in February 2022 over an antitrust case that alleged Apple abused its dominant position by distributing apps through its own iOS operating system, giving it a competitive advantage. Apple said it “respectfully disagreed” with that ruling.

The Financial Times writes that in order to pay the fines imposed by Russia’s government, US companies must first seek permission from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency that enforces trade controls.

Apple was one of the many Western companies to halt product sales in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but the App Store and some subscription services remain active. This is despite Ukraine’s government urging Tim Cook to block the App Store in Russia. It’s also possible for Russians to buy iPhones at a marked up price that have been imported from other countries, though the government has banned its employees from using them.

Apple had the third-largest share of phone sales in Russia before the invasion

Russia has also been handing out modest fines to Western companies for not storing their data locally. Airbnb, Pinterest, and Twitch were fined 2 million roubles ($38,113) each, with UPS receiving a 1 million rouble ($19,057) fine in June 2022.

One of the biggest issues Russia has had with tech firms since the start of the war is their hosting of what it deems to be “fake” content relating to the invasion. Reddit, Apple, and Wikipedia have been fined over this charge.

Apple and the US Treasury have not commented on the former’s latest Russian fine. It’s unclear if Apple intends to let Russian iOS app developers link to alternative payment methods, as it has done in the US.

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