Apple’s App Store fee policy is being scrutinized by governments around the world, and now the company indicated that it could collect its commission regardless of whether developers use its own In-App Purchase mechanism or a third-party payments platform.
- Apple could apply its fees to digital transactions via competing payment platforms
- The fees would apply to any transactions initiated from within the app
- Currently, Apple collects 15-30% of proceeds from digital sales
App Store fees won’t be going away anytime soon
To reiterate, Fortnite maker Epic Games started the war by alleging anti-competitive practice on Apple’s part when it comes to the App Store commission structure.
In September, a California judge ruled against Apple’s anti-steering rule which prohibits developers from not only using links in their apps to take people to external websites but even mentioning to the user that they could purchase a subscription on the developer’s website. Read: How to download an iPhone app that’s not available in your country
On September 10, Apple was ordered to comply with the ruling within 90 days.
Developer David Barnard has now spotted a new legal filing from Apple in which the company threatens to continue collecting a commission on all digital sales within apps, regardless of whether developers use the company’s In-App Purchase mechanism or implement a competing third-party payment platform.
“What I’ve come to assume is now in black and white in this Apple filing: If the injunction goes into effect, Apple seems likely to charge a commission on any transactions that start in the app, even if they’re completed on the web,” he wrote on Twitter.
We’d love to see how Apple would actually implement such a solution.
How Apple might implement external payment links
Will developers be able to register a payments platform with the system, so that when the user attempts to buy something in the app they’re greeted with a menu offering a choice of multiple payment options? Or will it require developers to redirect users to a website?
What I’ve come to assume is now in black and white in this filing from Apple: If the injunction goes into effect, Apple seems likely to charge a commission on any transactions that start in the app, even if they are completed on the web. https://t.co/GVoEhiQbFS pic.twitter.com/uyXjAmM1uD
— David Barnard (@drbarnard) December 2, 2021
At any rate, supporting external payment links or third-party payments within apps is going to require some changes to Apple’s infrastructure. Of course Apple would argue in the legal filing that external links are really complicated even though they aren’t. “Apple would have to create a system and process for doing so,” reads the filing.
Epic in its own filing underscores that competing purchasing options outside of apps are already available on iOS devices (for instance, subscribing to Netflix outside of the app). “The injunction simply removes obstacles that Apple imposed to prevent users from learning about and choosing those options,” Epic wrote.
Read Apple’s legal filing on Scribd.
“Also we would have to come up with an alternate way of collecting our commission,” Cook says. "We would then have to figure out how to track what’s going on and invoice it and then chase the developers; it seems like a process that doesn’t need to exist."
— Adi Robertson (@thedextriarchy) May 21, 2021
Is it too late for Apple to retain control of its App Store?
In fairness, Google is making similar moves.
It’ll let developers use third-party payments in apps and has confirmed that an 11 percent fee on such transactions will apply regardless. By comparison, using the Google Play billing system results in a commission of 15 percent.
For years, Apple’s been collecting 15-30 percent on all digital transactions. And now, the company has indicated that it might start collecting those commissions even if developers implement external payment links in their apps. At this point, we’re increasingly believing that Apple will not succeed in keeping total control of its App Store.