Apple lawsuit settlement allows developers to inform customers of other payment methods

But the changes haven't been widely welcomed by everyone in the industry.
But the changes haven't been widely welcomed by everyone in the industry. Photo credit: Getty Images

Kiwi app developers will be allowed to notify iOS App Store customers of alternative ways to pay for subscriptions and other in-app purchases thanks to a proposed settlement to a class action lawsuit in the US.

That concession, which will allow businesses which earn under US$1 million per year to potentially avoid Apple's 15 percent commission, is one of a number of changes the company has announced for the App Store.

The action is being taken as a result of an agreement with those suing Apple in California, but they will be applied worldwide including in Aotearoa, an Apple spokesperson told Newshub.

The judge in the case, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, is the same judge that's overseeing Apple's court battle with Epic over the game Fortnite. She still has to agree to the proposed settlement.

And while developers will be able to use email addresses, mobile phone numbers and any other means agreed to by the user to share the information about payment methods outside of their iOS app, they will not be able to do so within the app itself.

Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt out, the company said.

Apple will also be expanding the number of price points available. Currently app creators set their own price but can only pick from around 100 potential prices - that's going to increase to more than 500, offering greater flexibility.

However, the spokesperson said this requires substantial engineering work so won't be completed until the end of 2022.

Following in the footsteps of Facebook's recent inaugural transparency report, the Cupertino-based company will also be creating an annual review detailing information such as the number of apps rejected for various reasons and the number of apps removed from the App Store.

Apple will also maintain the option for developers to appeal the rejection of an app based on perceived unfair treatment, while adding content to the App Review website to help developers understand how the appeals process works.

Unfortunately, a US$100 million fund that guarantees payments for developers only applies to those based in the US.

In a court filing Apple described it as a 'win-win' situation with the lawsuit members expressly agreeing "to the appropriateness of Apple's commission structure, including but not limited to the Small Business Program, as it applies to the Settlement Class".

They also released their claims against Apple, including "any claim, contention, argument, or theory that they were 'overcharged' by Apple on paid downloads or in-app purchases of digital content (including subscriptions) through the App Store".

However, not everyone was impressed.

Mark Gurman, who writes the Power On newsletter about Apple and general technology for Bloomberg, tweeted it was a massive win for Apple "especially if it sways the judge (the same one as in this class action suit) its way in the Epic trial".

"They're basically changing nothing of importance and paying 'only' $100 million," he wrote.

Joe Rossignol, senior news reporter at Mac Rumours, was equally scathing.

"Apple agreed to a $100 million settlement to end this lawsuit. Apple calls this a 'fund' to assist developers. I think that's just PR spin," he tweeted.

"Apple didn't just cheerily decide to give developers free money. They got sued."