The Netherlands Has Made a Dent in Apple’s Walled App Store Garden, For Now

The Netherlands Has Made a Dent in Apple’s Walled App Store Garden, For Now
Photo: Chris Delmas / AFP, Getty Images

Apple will grudgingly allow dating app developers in the Netherlands to use alternative payment methods in the App Store, but it doesn’t like it, and the score hasn’t been settled yet.

In an update on its developers’ blog on Friday, Apple said dating app developers will have two new optional “entitlements” in the App Store, which sounds strangely medieval, but OK. Besides using Apple’s in-app payment system — which nearly all developers worldwide are obligated to use, with some exceptions — they will also be able to include an in-app link directing users to their website to make a purchase or use a third-party payment system in the app.

According to Apple, developers can choose only one of the two entitlements and have to request it from Apple. For those who want to continue using Apple’s in-app payment system, where the company takes between a 15% and 30% cut of every purchase, no action is needed.

“We’re concerned these changes could compromise the user experience, and create new threats to user privacy and data security,” Apple said on its developers’ blog, noting that it designed the App Store to be a safe a trusted place. “In the meantime, we are obligated to make the mandated changes which we’re launching today and we will provide further information shortly.

Apple went on to stress that some App Store features will not be available for users of dating app developers who request entitlements “in part because we cannot validate the security and safety of payments that take place outside of the App Store’s private and secure payment system.”

It added that Apple will not be able to help users with refunds, purchase histories, subscription management, or other issues they encounter when using alternative payment methods.

“You will be responsible for addressing such issues with customers,” Apple said.

(Something tells me the company probably would have put the “you” in all caps if it wasn’t worried about appearances).

The new payment options in the Netherlands are not live yet but will be “made available shortly,” the company announced.

Considering Apple’s stance on payments in the App Store, as well as the statements included above, you can probably guess that it didn’t offer the new entitlements out of the kindness of its Big Tech heart. Apple is being forced to give dating app developers alternative payment options by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets, also known as the ACM.

In a decision published in late December, the regulator ruled that the conditions Apple applied to dating app developers were unreasonable. The ACM said that some app providers are dependent on the App Store and that Apple, which is in a dominant position, takes advantage of that dependency by requiring them to use its in-app payment system. The regulator gave Apple two months to give these developers additional payment options and threatened it with up to $US56.5 ($78) million in fines if it didn’t comply.

Apple is appealing the ACM’s decision to a higher court.