Thursday, December 2, 2021

Apple Wants Fee for Alternate Billing Systems

Benjamin Mayo (motion):

Although the appeal of the Apple-Epic lawsuit is ongoing, Apple is currently subject to the judge’s decision and will have to allow app developers to show links to external payment platforms inside from December 9, unless the Ninth Circuit grants a stay.

In a related legal filing, Apple indicates that it is considering charging a commission on any such transactions that are initiated from within an app, even though they are not using In-App Purchase.


The filing is presented to the court in a last-ditch attempt to delay the December 9 implementation date. As such, Apple also stresses the “substantial engineering” that it says is necessary to allow linking to other payment systems. This includes policies and APIs to enable features like Parental Controls and purchase restoration to keep working, in a world where customers can buy things using platforms other than Apple IAP.

Are they building a way to track external purchases so they can get their fee?

Florian Mueller:

Apple merely needs to convince the appeals court of there being pretty good grounds on which the UCL injunction may be overturned. As I explained before, it would be an unprecedented kind of anti-anti-steering injunction under U.S. law. Apple has other arguments that the district court wasn’t receptive to but which are likely to bear weight with the appeals court, such as that Epic’s defeat under the Sherman Act is also dispositive of its UCL claims. Even if one doesn’t agree with Apple on this 100% (I, for one, am convinced that California UCL does give courts more wiggle room than federal antitrust law), the fact that Apple’s business model was (regrettably, if you ask me) cleared under federal antitrust law at least makes it a pretty good possibility that the UCL injunction won’t be affirmed.

There’s also the notable absence of a market definition from the UCL part of the district court’s judgment and question, and Apple continues to dispute Epic’s standing, pointing to a decision by the Second Circuit that found merchants who don’t accept Amex cards lack standing to challenge Amex’s anti-steering provision. Epic is not on the App Store anymore; some of its subsidiaries are, but Epic elected not to make them parties to the case, as Apple accurately notes (and which may be one of those decisions that Epic regrets in retrospect--they made some brave and smart decisions, but also some that weren’t great).


But Apple is now the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Two months ago I criticized Apple for utilizing ACT | The App Association, which is more accurately described as ACT | The Apple Association. ACT issues statements on App Store issues all the time, and I guess we’ll see amicus briefs from them in this case, too. While CAF did a poor job on that amicus brief (failing to disclose even that Epic is a member is an unforgivable mistake and diminishes its credibility), there can be no doubt that not only all of its members but also all of its financial backers are genuine app developers (like Epic and Spotify). That is more than ACT can say: ACT simply renamed itself “The App Association” at some point, but there is no indication that many of its current members actually make apps, as I’m not aware of ACT only accepting sign-ups from actual app makers (apparently there’s no vetting, and I know of a U.S. professor who held a position with the Clinton White House and at some point signed up for free just to verify the hypothesis of ACT not applying any criteria to who joins, or charging a cent) or that they kicked out members who don’t make apps when ACT repositioned itself as an app developer organization.


Update (2022-01-13): Joe Rossignol (tweet):

Apple still plans to charge a reduced fee on purchases made through alternative payment systems, according to plans the company submitted to the Korea Communications Commission. Apple did not indicate when the new policy will take effect or what its commission structure will be for alternative payments, the report said.

Kyle Howells:

Oh yes, “platform fees”.

Just like how Mozilla takes a cut of every transaction taken inside Firefox.

And Microsoft of every payment made on Windows.

And AT&T of every payment made over 5G on an iPhone.

Or Ford of every drive through payment in one of their cars.

Update (2022-01-24): Manton Reece:

Apple wants iOS, the App Store, and their App Review team to be inseparable as a single platform. That’s not a technical reality. If they keep pushing this approach, they’ll only run up against more regulation and more distrust from the developer community.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Apple is becoming a parody of itself.

As such, Apple also stresses the “substantial engineering” that it says is necessary to allow linking to other payment systems.

Yeah, your answer is the only thing that makes sense. There’s essentially zero engineering on Apple’s side to allow links to be added to apps by app developers. From their point of view, it could be just an App Store guideline (aka “cultural”) change.

If they’re engineering, they must be pulling a Google and trying to get a slice of the 3rd party payments.

What motivates this if not purely profits? I know the wwsd stuff gets old, but one thing he was great at was knowing when to leave cash on the table. Tim’s Apple is not quite as adept.

The engineering would be to make sure that people opting to pay in a way that leaves more to the developer get a significantly worse experience than people who pay 30% to apple.

They would have to make sure you couldn't open a payment page in an in-app browser but rather hop through at least one "Are you sure you want to leave the superior security of the Apple eco system and venture out to the pirate infested murky waters of the internet?" prompt.

It's interesting to compare what the Wikipedia page says about Racketeering with that, what "Big Data" is doing.

You be the judge :)

Leave a Comment