Recently, Apple has updated its App Store rules in compliance with a court order, following the US Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the antitrust case initiated by Epic Games. The update now allows developers to promote alternative payment methods for in-app purchases and subscriptions through links or buttons within their iOS apps. However, Apple’s compliance comes with various conditions, including a complex process for developers to gain permission, termed the “StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement.”
Under these new rules, apps participating in Apple’s Video Partner and News Partner programs are not eligible for the Link Entitlement. Participants in these programs already pay a 15 per cent commission rate, and their customers can transact within the app using external payment methods. The court had previously ruled against Apple’s ‘anti-steering’ clause, which prohibited developers from directing users to external payment options.
In response to the court ruling, Apple has introduced a vetting process to control which apps can include external links and how they are implemented. Developers must apply for the Link Entitlement, providing details about the app, unique identifier, desired link, and website domain. The approved website must be owned or responsibly maintained by the developer, and links should not redirect users to intermediate pages. Mimicking Apple’s in-app purchase system is prohibited, and developers cannot discourage users from using it. Payment processors must meet industry standards and provide dispute resolution, subscription management, and refund processes.
Despite these changes, Apple has set a 27 per cent commission on out-of-App Store purchases within seven days of tapping an external link, leaving developers with little incentive to include the link in their apps. Epic Games and Spotify, along with the Coalition for App Fairness, have criticized Apple’s compliance as “bad faith” and “outrageous.” However, the legality of Apple’s approach remains likely, considering its legal standing.
In conclusion, Apple’s new App Store rules allow for more flexibility in terms of in-app purchases and subscriptions, but the conditions and commission rates have raised concerns among developers and industry critics. The ongoing debate over Apple’s compliance with the court order is likely to continue as developers navigate the new rules and assess the impact on their businesses.