Apple to Allow Third-Party Payment Options in US App Store After Court Ruling

Apple Allow Third-Party Payments US APP Store
In Short
  • To comply with the outcome of the 2021 Apple vs Epic Games legal saga, Apple has revised its US App Store guidelines.
  • App developers can now include links to alternative payment platforms, provided they should also offer purchases through Apple's in-app purchase system.
  • Apple will charge 12% as a commission from developers who are members of the App Store Small Business Program, and 27% from others.

On January 16, 2024, the US Supreme Court declined to hear any further appeals from the long-running Epic Games antitrust challenge against Apple. To comply with the outcome of the 2021 Apple vs Epic Games legal saga, the Cupertino tech giant announced a handful of changes in the App Store guidelines. It primarily reforms Apple’s guidelines to relax its anti-steering rules that restricted developers from linking any alternative payment methods in their apps.

Revised App Store guidelines

The new guidelines apply only to the iOS or iPadOS App Store on the United States storefront. For other storefronts, the older guidelines remain intact. According to the new alterations, Apple will allow the app makers to link to alternative payment methods by using the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement (US). Therefore, the apps can now bring users to a website where they can add their credit card information.

That said, there’s a condition to it. The apps should also offer purchases through Apple’s In-app purchase system. It clearly means that if an app doesn’t use Apple’s purchase system, it cannot include links to third-party payment systems.

Third-party payment options on Apple App Store
Image Source: Apple

The guideline says that developers can apply for an entitlement (a software tool) that allows them to include links and buttons directing users to an external website to make payments. Also, it’s the responsibility of the developer to manage all the accounts or purchases made outside the App Store.

Apple has agreed to allow the developers to display the link to the alternative payment mechanism only 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.” To make everything clear, Apple also provided templates that app developers can use to inform users about alternative in-app payment systems: 

  • Buy for [$X.XX] at [X]
  • For special offers go to [X]
  • To get [X%] off, go to [X]
  • Lower prices offered at [X]

Apple Will Still Charge a Commission

Even if a user chooses to pay through third-party payment platforms, Apple will still get a commission. It will be 12% for app developers who are members of the App Store Small Business Program. For other developers, the commission will be as high as 27%. This commission is applicable on “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.” That said, Apple believes that it would be extremely difficult and even impossible in some cases to collect the commission.

Well, this year seems to be a tough start for the giant. Recently, Apple split the App Store into two to comply with the EU’s DMA deadline. And now, it has revised the App Store guidelines to escape another lawsuit.

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