Apple has agreed to let iOS App Store developers email their users and mention alternative payment options outside of the company’s App Store.
This means, for example, a game company who holds a user’s email address could then contact that person to suggest they buy a season pass or in-game currency directly from them, rather than via the App Store where Apple takes its cut.
Until now, Apple did not let developers use any contact information obtained from within an app to contact their users outside of the app. A class-action lawsuit said this was unfair, and blocked the ability for them to inform customers of cheaper purchase options (thanks, Ars Technica).
Apple has now agreed to change its App Store guidelines, and to make available up to $100m in payments to developers if they claim they have lost income as a result of this policy.
Both sides of the lawsuit have said this outcome is a positive step, with Apple calling it a “win-win situation” that benefited itself. The settlement discounts other arguments that it behaved wrongly, Apple said in a statement, and that it meant the lawsuit’s plaintiffs accepted its business model was otherwise fair.
Not everyone is convinced, however, including – you guessed it – Fortnite maker Epic Games’ Coalition for App Fairness group, which also includes other businesses such as Spotify.
“Apple’s sham settlement offer is nothing more than a desperate attempt to avoid the judgment of courts, regulators, and legislators worldwide,” it wrote in a statement. “This offer does nothing to address the structural, foundational problems facing all developers, large and small, undermining innovation and competition in the app ecosystem.”
This “empty gesture”, the Coalition continued, simply makes Apple look conciliatory in the face of antitrust pressure and proposed legislation such as the Open App Markets Act, which could open the door to allow sideloading apps and third-party app stores on iPhones.
Certainly, the ability for app developers to email users about cheaper payment options is a long way away from what got Fortnite kicked off the App Store in the first place: a direct payment route in-game which sent money straight to Epic rather than via Apple. Indeed, the decision still means app developers cannot even mention an alternative payment route in-game – only external to it.