Apple to settle with small developers over App Store policies

Apple to settle with developers

Last week, Apple announced that it will change the App Store policies as a part of a settlement in the class-action lawsuit brought by US app developers against Apple in 2019. The agreement includes, in addition to a $100 million payment form Apple, changes in how developers can contact customers to e.g. inform them about other payment options outside the App Store.

The App Store guidelines have been criticized by developers and scrutinized by authorities over alleged anticompetitive practices. Apple has repeatedly been accused of having too much control over iOS users’ access to applications and forcing developers to comply with its rules that have been deemed unfair by developers (e.g. a 30 % cut from every in-app purchase), which has even led to legal battles. Fortnite creator Epic Games has been battling against Apple online and in court, and the case is now awaiting final judgement.

After years of allegations, the tech giant has now agreed to settle with the small-scale developers and make ‘major changes’ to the App Store terms. The change Apple has announced would be the biggest it has made regarding its alleged App Store monopoly.

However, the change may not be as major or significant as Apple’s press release suggests.

The App Store guidelines were already updated in June mainly to target scammers and fraudsters. The change also allowed developers to use contact information obtained within the app to communicate with customers outside of the apps – unless, the communication was to inform customers about other purchasing methods than in-app purchase. The agreed change removes the aforementioned clause, allowing developers to reach out to their customers by e.g. sending email with information regarding other payment methods.

However, the change does not allow developers to let customers know inside the app that they can use other payment methods than Apple’s in-app system. Thus, Apple still maintains control over developers and continues to hold on to a majority of the App Store terms which have been widely criticized.

The settlement is nevertheless a step towards a more open app marketplace for iOS developers. It remains to be seen whether Apple will have to change its guidelines more radically with the upcoming judgment in the Epic v. Apple case.

Read our previous posts:
Part 1: Is Epic Games reshaping the future of in-app purchases?
Part 2: The Epic Battle Continues
Part 3: Technical difficulties and naked bananas – the Epic Apple showdown is epic

Text and additional information:
Juuso Turtiainen, Associate, +358 40 764 8910, [email protected]
Anni Kaarento, Legal Trainee, [email protected]