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The Apple-Shazam deal is now under investigation

EU regulators worry Apple might use Shazam to stifle competition.

shazam-playlist-promo.jpg

A Shazam playlist on Spotify. If Apple purchases Shazam, regulators worry Apple might lock out competing apps like Spotify.

Matt Elliott/CNET

In case you've forgotten, Apple is buying Shazam -- you know, that app that recognizes songs playing nearby? -- for roughly $400 million. Apple had planned to combine Shazam with its Apple Music streaming service.

And in case you've forgotten, some European regulators were a teensy bit worried that a conjoined Apple-Shazam might adversely affect competition, unfairly giving Apple Music a leg up on other music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and Tidal.

It looks those fears may delay the deal further, because the European Commission (EC), the EU's executive branch, has just launched an in-depth investigation. In a press release issued Monday, regulators lay out three specific things they're concerned might happen:

  • Apple might "obtain access to commercially sensitive data about customers of its competitors."
  • Apple might "directly target its competitors' customers and encourage them to switch to Apple Music," placing competing music services at a disadvantage.
  • Apple might "discontinue referrals from the Shazam app" to competing music services.

Apple didn't immediately reply to a request for comment about whether it would do any of those things.

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The EC could potentially block or suggest modifications to the deal if it doesn't like what it finds -- or simply delay the transaction while the investigation runs its course. According to the press release, the EC plans to reach a decision by Sept. 4.

In 2014, the EC approved Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats, because the combined audio market share of Apple and Beats was relatively low. But the EC says Apple Music is the second largest streaming service in Europe, while Shazam is the leading music recognition app.