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Apple to finally allow alternate payment methods in US App Store

It will still charge a 27% commission, and a lower 12% for App Store Small Business Program members.

Apple app store logo with blurred background
Image: KnowTechie

After getting its appeal denied by the US Supreme Court for its legal battle with Epic Games, Apple has announced a few changes to the App Store Guidelines. 

Today, Apple has updated the App Store Guidelines to comply with the outcome of the 2021 Apple vs. Epic trial.

The changes to the App Store guideline are basically related to Apple’s anti-steering rules that have always blocked developers from using alternative payment methods in their apps. 

What changes in the revised App Store guidelines?

First of all, the changes Apple is making to the App Store guidelines are only applicable to the United States. 

The updated App Store guidelines allow developers to link alternative payment methods. However, there’s a catch. 

The app also needs to offer purchases through Apple’s own In-App Purchase system. It means an application cannot add alternative payment platforms if it doesn’t employ Apple’s In-App Purchase system. 

According to the updated guidelines, the developers can apply for an entitlement, allowing them to add buttons or links for directing users toward out-of-app purchase systems. Here’s what the guidelines actually say, 

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.

Apple also states developers can display the link to the alternative payment method 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.”

The company has even provided templates for the developers.

  • 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 still gets a commission

All that said and done, Apple still gets a hefty commission on all purchases done through the alternative platforms.

Apple’s commission will be 12% for the developers who are a member of the App Store Small Business Program and 27% for other apps.

The commission applies to the “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.”

In order to ensure Apple’s commission is properly collected, developers have to provide a periodic accounting of qualifying out-of-app purchases, and Apple even has the right to audit the developers if necessary.

However, Apple also says this way of collecting commissions will be extremely difficult and may be impossible in many cases.

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.

That said, collecting a commission in this way will impose additional costs on Apple and the developers.

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Saurav loves writing and tech. So, after engineering, he didn't look back and embarked on a journey to become a tech writer. Saurav has worked for various tech websites across the globe. Saurav has recently joined Know Techie and is proud to be a part of it.

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