From early next year, various types of services, including Spotify and Netflix, will be able to bypass Apple’s payment system in their iPhone and iPad apps. The tech giant makes a concession for this: from now on the parties can place a link in their app to their site where users can take out a subscription.
This seems like a small adjustment, but it means a significant change for these types of parties. In practice, this means that these app makers do not have to pay a 15 or 30 percent commission.
The adjustment comes after pressure from Japan, where an investigation into Apple has been going on for several years.
In recent years, opposition to Apple’s App Store policies had grown considerably. Entertainment services such as Netflix and Spotify, as well as publishers, find it unfair that they do not have the opportunity to inform their potential customers that they can offer a cheaper subscription via their own site.
If they let customers take out a subscription via the App Store, additional costs will be added. Spotify did this for a while and passed this on to the consumer: the subscription was therefore 12.99 instead of 9.99 euros. It eventually stopped. Anyone looking for this in Spotify now gets the message: “You can’t upgrade to Premium in the app. Well, we don’t think it’s ideal either.” The same goes for Netflix.
The audio service also finds it unfair that Apple Music, the music service of the tech giant itself, does not have to pay these commission costs and costs 9.99 euros. This creates an unfair playing field, according to the originally Swedish company.
The new measure applies to what Apple itself readercalls apps. The company includes digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video. An important category excluded from this measure is games. As a result, this also has no consequences for the lawsuit that is pending between Fortnitecreator Epic and Apple.
This also immediately shows the limitation of this measure: it applies to specific categories. Moreover, it remains to be seen what the companies are not allowed to do in practice. That will only become clear next year.
The proposed changes are in response to an investigation by the Japanese regulator that has been ongoing since 2016. Apple was suspected of a number of violations. That case is now closed. At the same time, in response to a complaint from Spotify, which is partly based on this, an investigation is underway at the European Commission. Apple has been charged in that investigation.
For now, Spotify and Netflix have not yet responded to the news. Spotify’s head of legal affairs, Horacio Gutierrez, retweeted a message from a tech analyst on Twitter. He said in response to the news that “fragmentary changes are quickly wiped out by systemic adaptations”. That same analyst also says that Spotify “gets almost everything it wants with this”.
The CEO of Epic, the company currently involved in a lawsuit with Apple over the download store, says on Twitter that Apple is looking daily at how it can “get away with their tying practices”. In other words, he is not satisfied.