Apple concedes on ‘anticompetitive’ restrictions in App Store | Apple

Apple has made a significant concession in its battle for control of the App Store, after the Japanese trade commission ruled that the company’s restrictions on apps such as Spotify, Netflix Kindle were anticompetitive.

Those “reader apps”, which allow users to view, read or listen to content purchased elsewhere, were previously banned by Apple’s policies from telling people how to subscribe to – or buy content from – their services. That lead to outcomes such as Netflix’s iOS app offering the ability to log in to an account, but no way to sign up for an account, nor even a hint that users need to sign up in the first place.

The change is minimal: Apple agreed with Japan’s fair trade commission (JFTC) to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up manage their account. But it is the second time in less than a week the company has been forced into softening its notoriously strict rules, after a developer lawsuit led to Apple agreeing to let users be contacted by email with alternative payment options.

“Trust on the App Store is everything to us,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller, head of the App Store. “The focus of the App Store is always to create a safe secure experience for users, while helping them find use great apps on the devices they love.

“We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up manage their apps services, while protecting their privacy maintaining their trust.”

Apple will take almost half a year to fully unwind its “anti-steering” policies, the company says, arguing that it takes time to work out how best to police the App Store to protect users from scams while still complying with the JFTC’s requirements. In the meantime, it will face a number of other legal challenges.

In the US, a court case launched by the Fortnite developer Epic Games is pending a ruling, judge Yvette Gonzalez had expressed particular concern over the same rules that prevented developers from pointing users elsewhere to pay for products services, thus avoid Apple’s 15-30% cut of the revenue.

In the EU, a complaint brought by Spotify seeks to force the company to open up the ability for users to pay with a credit card within the app, rather than having to go to a website to make a purchase.

In India on Thursday, a legal complaint from the Together We Fight Society NGO was filed with the country’s competition authorities, according to Reuters. The complaint, like the others, argues that Apple’s cut of App Store revenue hurts competition by raising costs acts as a barrier to entry.

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