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Updated January 19th, 2024 at 13:30 IST

Apple updates App Store rules amid antitrust dispute with Epic Games

The court had previously ruled against Apple's ‘anti-steering’ clause, which prohibited developers from directing users to external payment options.

Business Desk
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App Store | Image:Unsplash
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Apple App Store updates: 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 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."

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.

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The court had previously ruled against Apple's ‘anti-steering’ clause, which prohibited developers from directing users to external payment options. In response, 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.

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Must display alternative payment link 

Developers must display the alternative payment link on one app page, in a dedicated location, without persistence beyond that page. Apple provides compliant templates for developers to inform users about discounts or lower prices via the external link, but subjective claims are restricted.

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Despite these changes, Apple has set a 27  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 criticised Apple's compliance as "bad faith" and "outrageous." However, the legality of Apple's approach remains likely, considering its legal standing.

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Published January 19th, 2024 at 13:30 IST

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