Apple changes key App Store rules in response to class action lawsuit from developers

Developers are now permitted to email users 'about payment methods outside of their iOS app.'

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Karissa Bell
August 27th, 2021
In this article: apple, news, gear, app store, developers, antirust
A group of young developers stand for a group photo on stage during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Stephen Lam / reuters

Apple has agreed to change several rules that govern its App Store as part of a settlement with developers who filed a class action lawsuit against the company. The most significant change is that Apple is “clarifying” that developers are permitted to email users “about payment methods outside of their iOS app.” The company has also agreed to publish transparency reports detailing App Store rejection rates and the app review process.

Many of the changes will affect some of Apple’s most controversial developer rules that have been hotly debated as the company faces increased antitrust scrutiny. For example, Apple’s policies prohibiting developers from informing users about ways to pay for their content outside of Apple’s Store was a key issue in the Epic vs. Apple trial. Now Apple says developers are in fact allowed to make such “communications” via email or other methods as long as they don't do so directly in their app.

“To give developers even more flexibility to reach their customers, Apple is also clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app,” Apple writes in its statement.

The company is also promising more transparency around its app review process, which developers have said is confusing and difficult to navigate. Apple says it will release an “annual transparency report” that will “share meaningful statistics about the app review process, including the number of apps rejected for different reasons, the number of customer and developer accounts deactivated, objective data regarding search queries and results, and the number of apps removed from the App Store.”

There are other changes that are meant to give developers more flexibility in setting their prices. Apple says it will increase the number of price points available to app makers from “fewer than 100 to more than 500.” Those changes are expected by the end of next year, according to a statement from attorneys representing the developers. Additionally, Apple agreed as part of the settlement to keep in place the changes it originally said were in response to COVID-19 that reduced commissions to 15 percent for developers making less than $1 million a year. That change will now be in effect for “at least the next three years.”

The changes are in response to a class action lawsuit that dates back to 2019. Developers making less than $1 million may also be able to receive payments as part of the settlement, though the website with details on the arrangements hasn’t yet been published.

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