The Dutch competition regulator is finally happy with Apple’s concessions to allow market dating apps to use alternative payment technologies.
On Saturday, the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) provided an update on the months-long saga that has drawn high-level attention to Apple’s approach to complying with competition orders, saying the The tech giant had changed unfair terms it imposed following a regulator order to allow dating apps to use non-Apple payment technology to process in-app purchases.
“Until recently, dating app customers could only pay using the payment method imposed by Apple. In ACM’s view, Apple has abused its dominant position with these practices,” the author wrote. ‘ACM in the update “Now dating app providers can let their customers pay in a variety of ways.”
The ACM has imposed a series of fines on Apple since January – totaling 50 million euros – for failing to comply with its order, and had warned that it could impose further sanctions if Apple did not resolve its concerns.
The watchdog had considered a revised offer made by Apple in March – after finding problems with the way Apple had implemented previous concessions and deeming the terms it applied to be “unreasonable”, as well as accusing him to create an “unnecessary barrier” for developers of dating apps.
“Apple is now complying with the rules,” added the regulator. “This is why ACM no longer needs to impose a new on-call order. Over the past few months, ACM had gathered information from dating app vendors and independent experts before assessing that Apple had complied with the order.
In a statement, Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, also said: “We want everyone to be able to enjoy the benefits of the digital economy. In the digital economy, powerful companies have a special responsibility to maintain a fair and open market. Apple avoided this liability and abused its dominant position over dating app providers. We are happy that Apple has finally aligned its conditions with European and Dutch competition rules. This gives app providers more opportunities to compete. And consumers will also reap the benefits.
Details of exactly how Apple overhauled its concession to satisfy the ACM aren’t immediately clear – but, among a number of changes to its initial offering, Apple previously dropped the requirement that dating apps compile a separate binary that the regulator had deemed too heavy.
In documentation for developers distributing dating apps in the Netherlands, Apple confirms that they can do one of the following:
- continue to use Apple’s in-app purchase system,
- use a third-party payment system within the application,
- include an in-app link directing users to the developer’s website to make a purchase, or
- use a third-party payment system in the app and include a link directing users to the developer’s website to make a purchase.
“Dating app developers who wish to continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system may do so and no further action is required. Those wishing to use a different payment system will need to request the right to purchase External StoreKit or the External StoreKit Purchase Link Right, or both,” Apple also writes.
“ACM Order Compliant Rights are only available to dating apps on the App store in the Netherlands, and apps distributed under these rights may only be used in an iOS and/or iPadOS app on the Netherlands storefront. Apple will review each dating app submitted to ensure that it complies with the terms and conditions of the law, as well as the App store Review Guidelines and Apple Developer Program License Agreement,” he adds.
ACM’s original order from Apple dates back to August 2021, but full details have still not been released as they remain under court seal following a lawsuit from Apple – which filed an objection to the order and managed to suspend part of it until after that (ongoing) the procedure of objecting to the entire order is completed. Although the court allowed the ACM to publish part of the decision and impose penalty payments on Apple for non-compliance.
Apple has been contacted for comment. The company hasn’t made any additional public remarks – but did point to an update it released on Friday in which it discusses “additional adjustments” it has made to its offering after further conversations with the ACM , which it says include tweaks to UI requirements; and the criteria of the payment processor.
Apple also notes that a 3% “commission discount” also applies to in-app purchases that benefit from its lower commission rate (15%).
In its documentation for developers, Apple also mentions this discount by writing:
In accordance with the Rotterdam District Court’s interim relief decision, dating apps that have the right to connect or use a third-party integrated payment provider will pay Apple a commission on transactions. Apple will reduce its commission by 3% on the price paid by the user, excluding value added taxes. This is a discounted rate that excludes value related to payment processing and related activities. Developers will be responsible for collecting and remitting all applicable taxes, such as Netherlands Value Added Tax (VAT), for sales processed through a third-party payment provider.
“We do not believe that some of these changes are in the interest of our users’ privacy or data security. Because Apple is committed to constructive engagement with regulators, we are making the additional changes at the request of the ACM. As we’ve said before, we disagree with ACM’s original order and are appealing it,” Apple’s update also notes.
This report has been updated with details from Apple’s previous update. We have also corrected the date of the ACM update – which was released on Saturday rather than Friday night, as we originally misstated