Apple Updates US App Store Guidelines, Allowing Developers to Link to Third-Party Payments

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Apple has recently revised its US App Store guidelines, marking a significant change in its approach to in-app purchases and developer freedoms. This update follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal related to the Epic v. Apple case, effectively requiring Apple to comply with earlier rulings. The new guidelines now permit U.S. developers to link to outside websites for in-app purchases, albeit with certain conditions and a continued commission structure.

Key Highlights:

  • Apple allows U.S. developers to link to external sites for in-app purchases.
  • The change follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Epic v. Apple case.
  • Developers are required to still offer purchases through Appleā€™s In-App Purchase system.
  • Apple will charge a commission on purchases made through third-party platforms.
  • The commission rates are 12% for small business program members and 27% for others.
  • The guideline changes apply only to the U.S. App Store.
  • Entitlement requests and specific conditions must be met by developers for external linking.

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Background and Implications

The Supreme Court Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Apple’s appeal in its legal battle with Epic Games paved the way for these guideline changes. This decision stems from a 2021 ruling by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, which concluded that Apple must allow developers to direct customers to third-party platforms for in-app purchases and subscriptions.

Revised Guidelines

Apple’s updated guidelines stipulate that developers may apply for an entitlement to include links or buttons directing users to external purchasing mechanisms. However, they must still offer purchases through Apple’s In-App Purchase system. This arrangement ensures that Apple maintains a level of control over the payment process while complying with legal requirements.

Commission Structure

Despite allowing external links, Apple will still collect commissions on purchases made through alternative payment platforms. The rate is 12% for members of the App Store Small Business Program and 27% for other developers. This commission applies to purchases made within seven days after a user follows an external purchase link.

Developer Requirements

Developers intending to use external links must submit an entitlement request form, configure the entitlement in Xcode, and submit their app for review. Additionally, any external purchase links must open in the default browser without any redirect or intermediate links and must not pass additional parameters to protect user privacy.

Challenges and Criticisms

The new policy has not been without criticism. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, a key figure in the legal battle against Apple, has voiced concerns over the 27% commission rate, deeming it anti-competitive. He also highlighted the potential challenges in implementing and managing external payment links, given Apple’s strict guidelines and the required commission payments.

Global Implications and EU Regulations

While the changes currently apply only to the U.S. App Store, upcoming regulations in the EU, such as the Digital Markets Act, may prompt Apple to implement similar changes in Europe. Reports suggest that Apple might release different versions of its iOS App Store for the European market and the rest of the world.

Apple’s updated App Store guidelines represent a notable shift in its policy, balancing legal compliance with its business model. While this change provides developers with more flexibility, it also introduces complexities in terms of implementation and commission payments. As the digital marketplace continues to evolve, further adjustments and refinements to these policies can be expected.

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About the author

James

James Miller

Senior writer & Rumors Analyst, James is a postgraduate in biotechnology and has an immense interest in following technology developments. Quiet by nature, he is an avid Lacrosse player. He is responsible for handling the office staff writers and providing them with the latest updates happenings in the world of technology. You can contact him at james@pc-tablet.com.