Apple to let content apps redirect users for account access after Japan probe

Apps within iPhones will still not be allowed to take payments outside of Apple's ecosystem, however.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

Apple has announced it will allow developers of "reader" apps to link to external websites for setting up and managing accounts from sometime next year, following an investigation made by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC).

Reader apps are those that provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video, such as Spotify and Netflix.

The update will allow developers of these apps to include an in-app link to their website for users to set up or manage an account. The update will take effect sometime next year, Apple said.

While the update was made as part of an agreement for the JFTC to end its probe, which only applies to the Japanese market, Apple said it would apply this change globally to all reader apps on the store.

App developers are still banned by Apple from taking other forms of payment inside apps on the iPhone, however.

The update follows other changes Apple has agreed to over the past week in the face of legal and regulatory scrutiny. These include settling a class action lawsuit by allowing apps developers to implement payment systems outside of the App Store and halving the commission fee it receives from developers that earn less than $1 million in revenue.

By making that settlement, Apple still maintains its 30% commission structure in relation to purchases that are made within the App Store. Apple also did not clarify whether the halved commission for small developers would continue to apply after the three-year period it has promised.

It also introduced its Apple's News Partner Program last week, which similarly halves Apple's cut from publishers that join Apple News.

On the legislative front, Apple is now required to make changes to its app store practices in South Korea, with South Korea yesterday passing a Bill to ban app marketplaces from forcing developers to use their in-app purchase systems, with developers in South Korea now able to choose alternatives or create their own marketplaces while still being allowed to operate in existing app stores.

Apple did not agree with the legislative changes, saying it would put users who purchase digital goods from other sources at risk of fraud, undermine privacy protections, make it difficult to manage their purchases, and features like Ask to Buy and parental controls would become less effective.

"We believe user trust in App Store purchases will decrease as a result of this proposal -- leading to fewer opportunities for the over 482,000 registered developers in Korea who have earned more than 8.55 trillion won to date with Apple," an Apple spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

Apple also continues to face various lawsuits from Epic Games. In all these lawsuits, Epic Games accuses the tech giants of conducting anti-competitive and monopolistic practices through their respective app stores. 

The legal spat between the companies arose last year when Fortnite was booted off Apple and Google's app stores for introducing a new payment system that sidestepped the tech giants' payment systems and in-app purchase commissions.


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