Apple Inc. will allow developers of some apps to link from their software to external websites for payments by users, addressing a longstanding App Store complaint and settling an investigation by Japan’s Fair Trade Commission.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant said the change will go into effect globally early next year for so-called reader apps spanning magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video. To date, Apple has forced such applications to use its in-app purchase system, which gives Apple up to a 30% commission on downloads and in-app subscriptions. By pointing users to the web to sign up, creators of those apps can sidestep that fee.
The announcement comes as part of a settlement with Japan’s regulator, which is now closing its investigation into the App Store.
“We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust,” Phil Schiller, who oversees Apple’s App Store, said in a statement.
Developers like Netflix Inc. and Spotify Technology SA have long complained that Apple doesn’t allow them to link to their website for users to sign up for their services. Apple has previously rejected or removed third-party applications that attempted to steer users to their websites so they wouldn’t have to pay the commissions. Importantly, games, which are the most lucrative class of mobile apps, do not fall under this classification and Apple’s decision won’t resolve its legal dispute with Epic Games Inc. over in-app purchases in global hit Fortnite. The judge overseeing the trial between Apple and Epic suggested that Apple make a change similar to this one.
“Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account,” Apple said in the statement. Apple is not allowing alternative payment systems within apps themselves, saying it will “help developers of reader apps protect users when they link them to an external website to make purchases.”
Last month, as part of a preliminary settlement of a class-action lawsuit with U.S. App Store developers, Apple loosened its rules to let software makers advertise outside payment methods to consumers via email. Many developers have been asking for these changes for years and lawmakers globally are increasing their scrutiny as well.
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