Apple says it will introduce third-party payment options for the first time ever in iOS apps, following South Korean legislation designed to open up the perceived monopolies of Google and Apple’s app stores. The alternative payments will only be available in South Korea and follows the announcement of similar changes by Google last November.
Apple’s decision was shared by the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) and reported by the Yonhap News Agency, but details of the implementation are thin on the ground.
Arguments over payment fees triggered the Epic Games trial
Apple currently charges developers a 30 percent fee on any digital purchases made by consumers using iOS apps. This fee has become increasingly contentious for developers, and was at the heart of the huge US lawsuit between Apple and Fortnite developer Epic Games. As a result of the lawsuit, a judge ordered Apple to allow third-party payments in the App Store, but this order was later put on hold due to an appeal. (Apple has since made a tiny concession to “reader apps” like Netflix, allowing them to link to websites to sign up users for new accounts, but that’s nothing like allowing in-app third-party payments.)
In South Korea, lawmakers have upheld complaints by developers about in-app payments, leading to new legislation. Apple says its will charge developers a reduced fee to use third-party payment options (just as Google has promised for its own third-party payment support), but some developers say it’s unfair for these companies to charge any fee at all. Apple and Google say fees are necessary to maintain and promote their app platforms.
Apple has not said how much it will charge developers to implement third-party payments in South Korea, or when this option will be available, or how exactly these new payments will be made available to consumers. The exact details of the implementation will be vitally important, as seemingly small decisions in things like app store UI can be used to steer consumers one way or another.
“Apple has a great deal of respect for Korea’s laws and a strong history of collaboration with the country’s talented app developers. Our work will always be guided by keeping the App Store a safe and trusted place for our users to download the apps they love,” Apple told Yonhap in a press statement. “We look forward to working with the KCC and our developer community on a solution that benefits our Korean users.”