In light of the US Supreme Court denying to hear Apple’s appeal in its legal battle with Epic Games, Apple has announced a handful of changes coming to the App Store Guidelines. Starting today, Apple is updating the App Store Guidelines to comply with the outcome of the 2021 Apple vs. Epic trial.
The changes reform Apple’s guidelines to relax its anti-steering rules that have previously prohibited developers from linking to alternative payment systems in their apps.
The revised App Store guidelines
The changes Apple is making to the App Store guidelines apply in the United States. They are similar to the changes Apple previously made specifically for dating applications in the Netherlands.
Apple is updating its App Store guidelines to allow developers to link to alternative payment methods, provided that the app also offer purchases through Apple’s own In-App Purchase system. This means that an app can’t include links to alternative payment platforms if that app doesn’t also use Apple’s In-App Purchase system.
The guideline says that developers can apply for an entitlement that allows them to include buttons or links directing users to out-of-app purchasing mechanisms.
“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. Learn more about the entitlement. 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.
The entitlement is limited to use only in the iOS or iPadOS App Store on the United States storefront. In all other storefronts, apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.”
According to Apple, the link to an alternative payment platform 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.”
Apple has provided templates that developers can use for communicating with customers about alternative in-app payment systems:
- For special offers go to [X]
- Lower prices offered at [X]
- To get [X%] off, go to [X]
- Buy for [$X.XX] at [X]
Apple will still collect a commission
Apple has also confirmed that it will charge a commission on purchases made through alternative payment platforms. This commission will be 12% for developers who are a member of the App Store Small Business Program and 27% for other apps.
The commission will apply to “purchases made within seven days after a user taps on an External Purchase Link and continues from the system disclosure sheet to an external website.”
Apple says developers will be required to provide accounting of qualifying out-of-app purchases and remit the appropriate commissions.
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.
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I wonder if those Dutch dating apps ever thought they would be creating the template for out-of-App-Store purchases. 😂
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However, Apple also says that collecting this commission will be “exceedingly difficult and, in many cases, impossible.”
“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.”
Apple has some more guidelines for developers who wish to adopt this entitlement, saying that the outside link must:
- Go directly to Your website without any redirect or intermediate links or landing page
- Open a new window in the default browser on the device, and may not open a web view
- Not pass additional parameters in the URL, to protect the end user (for example, their privacy);
- Be statically-defined in the <<SKExternalPurchaseLink>> in Your app’s info.plist before submission to the App Store;
- Be submitted with Your StoreKit External Purchase Link App (US) to the App Store, and shall be resubmitted if the URL changes;
- Be accompanied by language and a button adhering to the requirements provided in the Apple Materials;
- Not mimic Apple’s in-app purchase system, nor discourage end users from using it;
- Be displayed in Your StoreKit External Purchase Link App (US) on no more than 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;
- Not be displayed on any page that is part of an in-app flow to merchandise or initiate a purchase using in-app purchase; and
- Comply with any additional requirements provided in the Apple Materials.
The other anti-steering change that Apple is required to make is to allow developers to communicate with customers outside of their apps about alternative purchasing options, such as via email. Apple made this change in 2021 as part of its settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought on by small developers.
Obtained by 9to5Mac, you can find Apple’s finalized, filed, and stamped documents below.
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As an expert in technology and legal matters, I can provide comprehensive insights into the recent developments regarding Apple's App Store Guidelines. My depth of knowledge is derived from staying updated on the latest tech industry trends, legal battles, and the evolving policies of major players like Apple. Let's delve into the key concepts covered in the article:
US Supreme Court Denying Apple's Appeal in Legal Battle with Epic Games: The article begins with the US Supreme Court's decision to deny Apple's appeal in its legal battle with Epic Games. This sets the stage for Apple's subsequent actions in response to the outcome of the 2021 Apple vs. Epic trial.
Revised App Store Guidelines: Apple is making changes to the App Store Guidelines, specifically relaxing its anti-steering rules. Previously, developers were prohibited from linking to alternative payment systems in their apps. This is a pivotal shift, and the revised guidelines apply in the United States.
Allowance for Linking to Alternative Payment Methods: The updated guidelines now permit developers to link to alternative payment methods, provided the app also offers purchases through Apple’s In-App Purchase system. Developers can apply for an entitlement to include buttons or links directing users to out-of-app purchasing mechanisms.
Limitations on Alternative Payment Platform Links: Apple imposes restrictions on the display of links to alternative payment platforms. The link can only be displayed on one app page that the end user navigates to, in a single, dedicated location on that page, and may not persist beyond that page.
Commission on Purchases through Alternative Payment Platforms: Apple confirms that it will charge a commission on purchases made through alternative payment platforms. The commission rates are 12% for developers in the App Store Small Business Program and 27% for other apps. This commission applies to purchases made within seven days after a user taps on an External Purchase Link.
Challenges in Commission Collection: Apple acknowledges that collecting the commission will be challenging and, in many cases, impossible, given the large number of developers on the U.S. storefronts.
Additional Guidelines for Developers: Apple provides further guidelines for developers adopting the entitlement, including specifics on how the outside link should function, how it should be displayed, and compliance requirements.
Anti-Steering Change for Communication with Customers: Another anti-steering change requires Apple to allow developers to communicate with customers outside of their apps about alternative purchasing options, such as via email. This change was part of Apple's settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by small developers in 2021.
These developments showcase the complex interplay between technology, legal frameworks, and corporate policies in the rapidly evolving landscape of app distribution and monetization.