Apple agreed to relax App Store rules for small developers on Thursday, reaching an agreement in a class-action complaint as the iPhone maker awaits a decision from the same court in a second App Store dispute brought by the developer of Fortnite.
Changes to how all developers interact with customers are included in the agreement, a concern raised by the judge herself in the Fortnite case.
However, the great majority of the App Store business practises that have been challenged in courts and legislatures have been preserved by Apple. Instead, it gave up only $100 million (roughly Rs. 740 crores), a pittance for a company worth more than $2.4 trillion (roughly Rs. 1,78,00,210 crores), and a set of email marketing restrictions that legal experts predicted would be difficult to defend, even under a previous US Supreme Court case that allows companies to prohibit their business partners from directing customers to alternative payment methods.
The case was filed in 2019 by a collection of smaller software developers, alleging that Apple violated antitrust rules by collecting up to 30% fees. The Cupertino, California-based firm said that it has reached an agreement with US developers who make less than $1 million (approximately Rs. 7.4 crores) per year to relinquish all allegations that Apple’s fees are too excessive.
Apple is awaiting a verdict in the far more high-profile antitrust case brought by Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, who is slated to rule in the Epic lawsuit on Thursday, will have to approve the proposed settlement.
Apple said it will make adjustments to the App Store as part of the Thursday agreement, including extending for three years a modification announced last year that lowers fees for smaller developers to 15%.
Developers have long been able to accept payments outside of their applications to avoid paying Apple fees, and some, such as Netflix, refuse to use Apple’s in-app payment mechanism.
Apple, on the other hand, has stringent regulations prohibiting developers utilising contact information acquired from App Store users to subsequently notify those customers about other payment options, which are typically cheaper since they don’t need Apple fees.
Smaller developers that don’t have the same brand awareness as Netflix have long complained that Apple’s limitations hinder them from establishing direct billing connections with users.
Gonzalez Rogers had criticised Apple’s regulations during the Epic-Apple trial in May, despite the fact that Epic had not made them a cornerstone of its argument.
“Apple’s obfuscation of that information in a way that isn’t immediately conveyed to the customer appears anticompetitive,” she added.
Apple stated that the modifications will apply to all developers worldwide, not just those in the United States who are directly affected by the settlement. A $100 million (approximately Rs. 740 crores) support fund for small developers will also be established by the firm.
The settlement would provide “substantial changes,” according to Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, who represented the developers in the lawsuit.