Coalition Takes on Apple App Store Policies

Posted on September 24, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Apple, Google, iOS, Mobile with 30 Comments

Epic Games, Spotify, Tile, and several other companies have banded together to take on Apple and its unfair App Store policies.

“As enforcers, regulators, and legislators around the world investigate Apple for its anti-competitive behavior, The Coalition for App Fairness will be the voice of app and game developers in the effort to protect consumer choice and create a level playing field for all,” Spotify Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutierrez says in a prepared statement.

“The basic freedoms of developers are under attack,” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney adds. “We are joining the Coalition for App Fairness to defend the fundamental rights of creators to build apps and to do business directly with their customers. We are an advocate for any company that’s ready to reclaim its rights and challenge the anti-competitive behaviors that exist on app stores today.”

As the Coalition notes, app stores are convenient places for users to discover, download, and buy apps, but the two major gatekeepers—Apple and Google—have abused their control of this app distribution on their respective platforms. Developers have been complaining about their unfair business practices for years, but quietly out of fear of retribution. Over the past year, however, several major app makers—notably Spotify and Epic Games—have finally spoken up and complained to antitrust regulators. And now both Apple and Google face regulatory and legal battles around the world. And the dam has burst.

In addition to its long-standing abuses, Apple has conspicuously moved to make its App Store policies even less accommodating to app developers in the past several months. It has aggressively pushed to force app makers that do offer subscription services to offer them in their apps, and not just on the web, so that it can get its 30 percent vig. And it has likewise aggressively moved against game streaming services from companies like Microsoft despite the fact that they don’t have similar onerous requirements for video streaming services.

“If Apple chooses to compete with developers on its platform, it should do so according to the same rules,” Tile vice president Kirsten Daru says. “Instead, Apple leverages its platform to give its own services an unfair advantage over competitors. That’s bad for consumers, competition, and innovation.”

“Apple’s [in-app purchases system] forces consumers to pay higher prices by inserting Apple between app developers and their users, leading to customer confusion and dissatisfaction that has far-reaching implications for our businesses,” Match Group senior vice president Mark Buse notes.

The Coalition for App Fairness was created by Basecamp, Blix, Blockchain.com, Deezer, Epic Games, the European Publishers Council, Match Group, News Media Europe, Prepear, Protonmail, SkyDemon, Spotify, and Tile, and is supported by contributions from all members, the organization says. Other app makers that are interested in joining can do so at appfairness.org.

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Comments (31)

31 responses to “Coalition Takes on Apple App Store Policies”

  1. Avatar

    Greg Green

    In reply to wildcursor:

    Time Sweeney’s estimated net worth is $8 billion. You sure he’s looking out for small developers?

  2. Avatar

    waethorn

    In reply to wildcursor:

    It doesn't really benefit small companies - it benefits large ones that like to pretend they're small for the pity vote.


    Why are you against an equal flat tax?

  3. Avatar

    wright_is

    In reply to Bob_Shutts:

    The question is, whether the devs are absorbing the 30% on the Apple platform, as they can't charge less on their own site, according to Apple's rules.

  4. Avatar

    jtorjo

    In reply to Bob_Shutts:

    Seriously? How is this not a win, if we drop the crappy Apple tax? WHICH ONLY BENEFITS APPLE.

  5. Avatar

    spiderman2

    Finally... hopefully more companies will join the fight

  6. Avatar

    scovious

    This was a long time coming, hopefully it continues to snowball as more developers see that their voices matter. Thank goodness for Epic taking that bold first step against Apple.

  7. Avatar

    bleduc

    This is not an easy problem. On one hand we appreciate a curated store where we have quality standards over content and easy access to content. The developers have access to customers with payments handled. That costs money, perhaps not 30%, to manage this store.


    We also have the problem that if Apple doesn't change for subscriptions, then every app will be a subscription with a free download. So the store would generate zero income. Also, how do you pay for the management of updates and downloads over the life of the subscription?


    So there is a solution somewhere, but it is not as easy as just saying don't charge for subscriptions.


    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to BLeduc:

      But that is part of the problem, the developers have to pay 30% for ZERO access to their users, they are Apple's customers and Apple handles everything, you don't actually have access to them.

      And if you have your own payment processing system already in place that charges significantly less (<5%), why should you be forced to pay 30%?

      And it would be a different situation if Apple wasn't offering competing services that are exempt from the 30% fee. The 30% would still be extortionate, but at least the playing field would be level. If Apple want to offer competing services, they can't also price all competition out of the store.

      Either Apple needs to secede control of the Store to a third party or a new subsidiary, where Apple's own services are then bound by the same rules as everyone else (i.e. Apple will be charged 30% as well for each transaction). Or they have to stop the services or calculate the 30% on top, just like everybody else and be forbidden to run those services at a loss (i.e. not cut the base price by 30%, thus making a loss on the service, but making a profit on the 30% tax on the transaction).

    • Avatar

      Stokkolm

      In reply to BLeduc:

      It's not that hard. Treat everyone the same. If you want to control the quality of programming in a streaming video game service then do the same with streaming video services, otherwise, allow streaming gaming services. If you don't charge 30% on the purchase of a physical book, don't charge 30% on the purchase of a digital book. Don't force app makers to offer subscriptions in their app just because they offer them from their website. If they choose to have a subscription option in their app, collect your 30% and be happy you did.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to Stokkolm:

        I agree with what you say, for the most part.

        I think, when Apple were setting up the service and getting the Store up and running, they needed to invest heavily. But today, it wouldn't surprise me if they could still make a profit on the service at 15% or less.

        I would like Apple to reassess the situation and provide some figures which actually justify why it still has to be 30%.

        And forcing payments through the store and not being able to adjust prices or inform users about cheaper alternatives is wrong. You can't charge the customer more, if they pay through the app store, to compensate for the 30% loss of income for paying through the store, and you can't inform them that they can buy direct from you (and thus you can make an actual living).

        I don't see the problem with saying "if you buy through the store, it is $13, if you buy direct from us, it is only $10." Some people will still prefer the simplicity of paying $13 to Apple, whilst those on a tighter budget would probably come to you directly.

  8. Avatar

    venividivinci

    Pay higher prices 🤔 when the AppStore lock-in with payments ends. It will be interesting to see if prices actually drop

  9. Avatar

    pierrelatour

    Just imagine what these guys could accomplish by banding together and make an alternative O.S./Phone platform instead of just sitting on their ass and whine to the authorities...

  10. Avatar

    kingbuzzo

    They should port all of their apps to the Windows Phone store...that'll teach 'em! :D

  11. Avatar

    Mcgillivray

    “If Apple chooses to compete with developers on its platform, it should do so according to the same rules,”


    Has it been confirmed that Apple doesn't do this? I mean - are we sure that when someone buys an Apple app from the Apple App store that Apple doesn't take 30% of that purchase?


    I'm pretty sure they do. Seems even across the board to me :)

  12. Avatar

    waethorn

    Easy option for Apple: allow side-loading of apps and make it complicated for the end-user to find the option to enable it. Guaranteed, it'll settle any complaints, but also average users likely won't even bother with it, meaning it's little loss to Apple. If a third-party app developer gives instructions to users on how to enable it and load their sketchy app, Apple can blame the app developer for screwing up the device. Apple can wash their hands of any problems.

  13. Avatar

    Supergregnuma1

    I initially thought this was about The Coalition, makers of Gears of War. This is going to make things confusing.

  14. Avatar

    csteinblock

    Would abandoning the platform accomplish more? If enough developers left or threatened to leave it seems like it would catch everyone's attention?

  15. Avatar

    Greg Green

    So running to the courts isn’t enough, especially since epic has made such a hash of their recent battle, now they’ve formed a lobbying group to shower politicians with even more money. And they’re doing it for me. I feel so lucky.

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