Developers: Apple updates App Store guidelines on alternative payment methods

Apple has tweaked its App Store review guidelines to let developers email customers about non-Apple payment systems. But developers cannot communicate alternatives within the app itself.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Apple has updated its App Store review guidelines to reflect its settlement with US developers in late August over them contacting customers about alternative payment methods outside an iOS app.

After the settlement, Apple said that it would allow developers to use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS apps and avoid commissions to Apple.

Apple announced on Friday that it had deleted a section from guideline 3.1.3 that said: "Developers cannot use information obtained within the app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than in-app purchase (such as sending an individual user an email about other purchasing methods after that individual signs up for an account within the app)."

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The new guidelines state that some app types, such as 'Reader' apps and person-to-person apps, now "may use purchase methods other than in-app purchase." Reader apps include magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video services.

Developers can't use the iOS app itself to communicate alternative payment methods to customers, but they can communicate outside of the app to inform them of the choice, such as via an already acquired email address.  

"Apps in this section cannot, within the app, encourage users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase. Developers can send communications outside of the app to their user base about purchasing methods other than in-app purchase," Apple states in the updated guideline 3.1.3

The changes are meant to implement a fairer system for developers who depend on Apple's platforms for revenue. The settlement cleared the way for Apple address its "anti-steering" accusations and ended a two-year class action brought by about 67,000 developers. 

Apple also introduced a new guideline about using an iOS app to collect user contact information such as a name and email address. 

"Apps may request basic contact information (such as name and email address) so long as the request is optional for the user, features and services are not conditional on providing the information, and it complies with all other provisions of these guidelines, including limitations on collecting information from kids," Apple's guideline states. 

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South Korea in August approved a bill that seeks to ban app marketplaces from forcing developers to use their in-app purchase systems.  

Google and Apple earlier this year halved in-app commissions to 15% of sales for developers' first $1 million in sales per year.

These anti-steering changes in Apple's guidelines have taken effect to the backdrop of its legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games. Apple this month appealed a September injunction in the US that blocks Apple from creating rules preventing developers from adding in-app links to payment websites. 

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