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Apple will not have to give developers a way to bypass App Store payments, for now

Apple will not have to give developers a way to bypass App Store payments, for now
Photo Credit: Pixabay
9 Dec, 2021

Apple will not be forced to bend its App Store payments policy with immediate effect, after an appeals court heeded to Apple’s plea and granted a stay on the initial ruling that was given on the Apple vs Epic Games case. 

Earlier this year, the iPhone maker was ordered by a district court to allow developers to accept payments through external links. The ruling essentially bypassed Apple’s restriction of using its own payment method for in-app purchases, through which the company earns a commission. 

Appealing against this verdict, Apple argued that enabling such a feature for developers would require the company to build a payments infrastructure that accepts purchases outside the App Store, which would, at the very least, require time. 

A statement by Mami Goldberg, Apple spokesperson, reportedly says that the company thinks making such a change “would have created new privacy and security risks, and disrupted the user experience.” 

Apple took the privacy stance in its defence of anti-competitive practice allegations made by Epic Games. The latter alleged that Apple runs a monopolistic service that does not allow developers a fair route to ply their trade -- without paying a hefty chunk of their earnings to Apple. Epic also claimed that Apple’s “walled garden” approach was crushing any notion of competition, thereby not allowing iOS users the freedom to choose how to pay for services. 

Apple, in its defence, cited examples of privacy and security breaches across both its rival software ecosystem, Google’s Android, and even its own macOS. Apple’s software engineering chief, Craig Federighi, had argued that while macOS allows third party download sources, it is significantly more vulnerable to software breaches than iOS. 

Apple’s chief executive officer (CEO), Tim Cook, had also argued that a major chunk of developers on the App Store were below the minimum annual revenue cut, after which Apple charges a commission to the publishers of apps and services. He further defended Apple’s commission rate by stating that the amount counted as royalty for using a proprietary web platform that Apple had built by itself. 

The company has now won the appeal, meaning that it will not be compelled to allow developers the ability to send external payment links through apps -- at least until its appeal is heard in court. However, the appeals court did not issue a stay on a second part of the order against Apple, which stated that it will have to start allowing developers a way to communicate with its users directly, if it collects voluntary information from its users. 

Facebook, notably, introduced a creator programme recently that bypasses Apple’s in-app payment process by directly mailing a payment link to users. Going forward, it remains to be seen how such processes are affected, and what the verdict of Apple’s appeals against the Epic verdict eventually reads.