The revisions offer developers a meaningful opportunity to conduct business outside of Apple’s billing system while providing users with the choice of where to transact. These revisions mirror Apple’s allowance of alternative purchase options in the Netherlands and South Korea after facing government pushback, and google is testing a similar scheme in response to developer complaints and regulatory scrutiny.
Criticism from developers such as Epic, Spotify, and Proton is calling for a stronger concession from Apple due to the costs and customer service associated with using their own billing tools. Many argue that the 27 percent fee for transactions outside of an app is excessive and undermines competition and user choice. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has announced plans to contest Apple’s new rule in court, but it’s uncertain if US district judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers would be receptive, given her earlier ruling favoring Apple.
Legal expert Rebecca Haw Allensworth has stated that Apple’s new linking rule may be considered “bad faith,” as it recreates the system the courts found anticompetitive. A challenge from Epic is uncertain, and a new set of appeals to the US Supreme Court is unlikely, given the case’s basis on California’s unfair competition law. Further litigation could be costly for Epic, given Apple’s demand that it pays the majority of legal bills.
Developers, including Spotify and Epic, are hopeful that Apple will need to make more substantial changes by early March to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act. The Act requires online gatekeepers to open their systems to more competition. However, it’s unlikely that any changes made in response to the DMA will apply outside of the EU. Despite the years of pressure on Apple’s and Google’s app stores, they remain as dominant and lucrative as ever.
Apple’s revisions to allow developers to conduct business outside its billing system and other recent changes in response to regulatory pressures have raised concerns among developers and legal experts. While some hope for more substantial changes in compliance with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, the limited scope of potential alterations and the uncertainty surrounding court challenges make the future landscape of app stores difficult to predict. In the meantime, the debate over fair competition and user choice within app stores continues to evolve.
In a recent legal battle with Epic Games, Apple experienced a setback when a federal judge ruled that the tech giant could no longer prevent app developers from directing users to alternative payment methods outside of the App Store. However, Apple quickly turned this defeat into a new victory by announcing a change in its App Store policies, allowing developers to inform users about alternative payment options and compete better with Apple’s own in-app payment system. This strategic shift not only showed Apple’s flexibility in response to legal challenges but also demonstrated its commitment to fair competition within the App Store ecosystem.