The European Union has fined Apple nearly $2 billion for unfairly protecting its music streaming service against competitors and violating the bloc's competition laws.

Apple was found to have "imposed restrictions that prevented app developers from informing them about alternative and cheaper music subscription services", the statement said, noting that this was against EU rules.

"This is illegal and has affected millions of European consumers," said Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner.

The Commission noted that Apple had behaved in this way for almost a decade, which meant that many users paid "significantly higher prices for music streaming subscriptions". 

Apple will appeal the decision

"This decision was reached despite the Commission's failure to provide credible evidence of consumer harm and ignored the realities of an evolving, competitive and rapidly growing market," Apple said in a statement. 

Swedish streaming service Spotify lodged its complaint against Apple with EU authorities five years ago, after which an investigation was launched.

Apple argued that Spotify would benefit from the ruling, noting that the Swedish streaming service, which holds 56% of the European music streaming market and does not pay Apple for using the App Store, has met with the commission 65 times over eight years.

"Ironically, today's decision on behalf of competition reinforces the dominant position of a successful European company that is the runaway leader in the digital music market," Apple said in a statement. 

The EU's investigation banned Apple's streaming services from telling users outside their apps how much subscription offers cost, including links in their apps to pay for alternative subscriptions, and sending emails to inform users about different pricing options.The Commission also opened a separate antitrust investigation into Apple's mobile payment service, and the company has made adjustments to its app to resolve the investigation.The EU will introduce the Digital Markets Act this Thursday to curb the kind of behavior by tech giants at the center of the Apple investigation. 

The new regulation, which aims to prevent tech companies from dominating digital markets, warns of heavy fines for companies such as Apple, Meta, Google's parent company Alphabet and TikTok's parent company ByteDance.