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Despite new regulations Apple will still be able to charge 27% on external platform payments

While following new regulations to the letter, new changes to the Apple App Store Guidelines ensure that they'll get paid no matter what
Despite new regulations Apple will still be able to charge 27% on external platform payments
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In a move that’s clearly been in-the-making for some time, and finally seeing the light of day following the US court’s refusal to back down, Apple has today released updates to its App Store policies that spell out just how the (enforced) allowing of external payment services within the App Store is going to work post 2021 Epic Vs Apple trial.

And it’s surprising/not great news for developers hoping to hang onto some of their cash.

While Apple WILL be allowing developers to offer payment links within their apps to services other than the Apple Store, Apple will be charging a 27% fee on such payments. It’s a move that while perfectly adhering to the regulations foisted upon them to the letter, will continue to earn them the big bucks. And - incredibly - renders any recent legal rulings against them effectively pointless.

Moving the goalposts

Not only does the new 27% fee keep the Apple bucks rolling in, but, when the charges from external payment services are factored in (with them taking typically a 3% to 6% cut of the money), this means that using an external payment actually works out the same or even more expensive than simply letting Apple take it’s 30% fee.

Ponder that one for a moment. Apple has just had the biggest upset to its fee structure ever enforced into service by law… And then have been able to circumvent it and restore their status quo with a simple change to their App Store policy.

Slick move…

The only concession is that that 27% fee changes to a 12% fee if the developer is part of the App Store Small Business Program, according to the new support page concerning external purchase links.

You can find the new amendments to Apple’s policy in section 3.1.1a in App Store Review Guidelines.

In it, Apple writes, “To help ensure collection of Apple’s commission, developers are required to provide a periodic accounting of qualifying out-of-app purchases, and Apple has a right to audit developers’ accounting to ensure compliance with their commission obligations and to charge interest and offset payments.

“As both this Court and the Ninth Circuit recognized, collecting a commission in this way will impose additional costs on Apple and the developers.”

However, in some ‘good’ news for Apple haters, Apple does go on to admit that “Although developers are contractually obligated to pay the commission, as a practical matter, with hundreds of thousands of developers with apps on the U.S. storefronts for the iOS and iPadOS App Stores, collection and enforcement will be exceedingly difficult and, in many cases, impossible.”

You sure you want to do this?

Should developers wish to continue and go to the trouble of implementing external payments Apple have helpfully provided templates to suggest how the system might work. Along with a bunch of new regulations, of course.

Here's how Apple suggest you add an external link. At the end of the payment options.
Here's how Apple suggest you add an external link. At the end of the payment options.

Firstly developers wishing to add external payments must apply for an “entitlement” in order to enable them. And - of course - featuring a provision to simply use Apple’s existing in-app purchase system is a necessity. I.e. When faced with a ‘pay like you’ve always done’ versus ‘pay in a new way that you need to sign up for’ option it’s pretty clear which option users are going to pick.

The new policy reads: “Developers may apply for an entitlement to provide a link in their app to a website the developer owns or maintains responsibility for in order to purchase such items. In accordance with the entitlement agreement, the link may inform users about where and how to purchase those in-app purchase items, and the fact that such items may be available for a comparatively lower price."

Plus links to external payment platforms can only be displayed on “one app page the end user navigates to (not an interstitial, modal, or pop-up), in a single, dedicated location on such page, and may not persist beyond that page.”

Paging Mr Sweeney…

And who ya gonna call for comment on any Apple App Store wriggling? Yup. Epic’s Tim Sweeney is always in reception, with Apple effectively trolling their biggest hater at this point.

Taking to X, formerly Twitter, the Epic CEO and source of Apple's ire neatly summed up everything in a single Tweet:

Needless to say “Epic will contest Apple's bad-faith compliance plan in District Court.”

Looks like this one isn’t over just yet…