Author: Steffen Meyer, Mobile Marketing Content Specialist
For Apple, Valentine’s Day this year was rather expensive.
On February 14th the company got fined by Dutch authorities with 5.6 million dollars – as it did the weeks before and after. With Apple looking at a 124-billion-dollars profit in 2021, this won’t cause much heartbreak. Nevertheless, it shows that the company – along with other app store owners – does not have an easy time with authorities at the moment.
And this is just the latest news of the ongoing legal „war“ around app store rules. These rules force app developers to use the built-in payment systems by Google andApple, and at the same time get charged commission fees up to 30 percent for using them.
App developers worldwide are complaining about this method, wanting to use their own or third payment systems and circumvent the fees. App store owners on the other hand argue that they need the fee to uphold quality service.
The most prominent legal dispute is the Epic Games vs. Apple case which started in 2020 and was accompanied by a media campaign revolving around the video above. The Fortnite game developer launched a legal complaint against the app store rules but mainly lost in front of the courts, though the jury is still out.
However following these and other complaints, antitrust authorities around the globe launched investigations and politicians are debating new laws. To get a grasp on what’s happening, here’s an overview of the most important proceedings with links for further reading.
App store rules in the crossfire
United States of America
In the motherland of Big Tech, there is much debate going on around the „Open App Markets Act“. Among other groundbreaking proposals, this bill could make it illegal for app stores to prevent publishers from using third party payment methods. But opponents and proponents are still discussing it.
The EU Commission stated in April 2021 that „Apple’s rules distort competition in the market for music streaming“ because on the one hand Apple provides music streaming itself and on the other hand charges competitors commission, making their services more expensive. This preliminary finding has no legal effect yet and is part of the antitrust investigation launched in June 2020 that is still ongoing. Furthermore, the EU is debating new regulations that might shake the digital industry. Read our blog articles about the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) to understand the possible impact.
In August 2021, the parliament of South Korea issued a law that bans app store operators from forcing software developers to use their payment systems. Apple and Google plan to comply but still charge a commission when third-party payment systems are used. South Korean lawmakers criticize these plans, officially because they lack „concrete detail“.
The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) ruled that Apple must allow dating app developers to use third-party payment systems. The company complied but authorities found the new rules too strict for developers and fined Apple with millions of dollars. However, they didn’t criticize Apple for still charging a reduced 27 percent commission fee when apps use other payment systems.
The country’s cartel office (Bundeskartellamt) launched a proceeding against Apple in June 2021. The restriction of third-party systems and the commission fees are under scrutiny as well, according to the office’s president.
At the end of 2021, The Competition Commission of India (CCI) launched an investigation into Apple’s app store rules, following a complaint by a consumer group. The CCI has 60 days to complete this investigation, which should be around the end of March 2022.
The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) finished its investigation in 2020 and said it will watch Apple’s behavior closely, though giving no further details. Following this decision, however, Apple announced it will allow so-called reader apps such as Netflix, Spotify or Kindle to link to their own websites for account managing purposes – as long as they don’t urge users to conduct transactions outside of Apple’s marketplace.
Keep an eye on your overall marketing strategy
App developers should pay attention to these ongoing proceedings, since they may reshape the whole app store market. If you want to know how to navigate the complex app store ecosystem by Apple and Google, get in touch with us: We are always well-informed and guide you through any turmoil.
💡 Knowledge sharing is at the core of what we do. Learn more about the app industry and discover useful resources by signing up for our newsletter or become part of our community on LinkedIn, Twitter, Glassdoor or Instagram.