App Store Fees: You Can Now Email App Users With Links To Alternative Payment Methods

Do you want to avoid paying Apple’s 30% App Store fee on in-app purchase subscription or digital items payments? In a major shift to App Store rules, Apple will now allow app developers to communicate with their users about alternative purchase methods.

Developers can now contact users that signed up through their app and encourage them to pay directly and avoid Apple’s App Store fees, which range from 15% to 30% of gross sales.

The change is due to Apple having reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by developers claiming that the company monopolized in-app purchases on iOS.

On October 22, 2021, Apple made a series of modifications to their App Review Guidelines that provides developers more freedom in interacting with their customers.

One of the most noteworthy changes is that developers will be able to contact users about alternatives to Apple’s in-app purchase system outside of their applications.

The guidelines in question are the App Store Review Guidelines. The following phrase was deleted from section 3.1.3:

Developers cannot use information obtained within the app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than in-app purchase (such as sending an individual user an email about other purchasing methods after that individual signs up for an account within the app).

Further, in section 5.1.1, a new guideline (x) states that apps may ask for basic contact information, such as a name and email address, as long as the request is optional for the user, features and services are not dependent on providing the data, and it meets all other requirements of the guidelines.

(x) Apps may request basic contact information (such as name and email address) so long as the request is optional for the user, features and services are not conditional on providing the information, and it complies with all other provisions of these guidelines, including limitations on collecting information from kids.

Developers won’t be able to feature-gate functionality and request the user to enter an email address to unlock them, but the new rules allow a developer to collect emails through the app, then contact the user about upgrades or purchase options for digital assets.

To note:

  • If the app provides a user registration form, the user should also be able to delete their account within the app
  • Apps that collect user or usage data must obtain the consent of their users.
  • Apps may not require personal information simply to work, unless it is required by law or absolutely relevant to the app’s primary purpose.

Linking to other payment systems

Expect further changes to come as Apple complies with other court rulings, further enabling developers to link to external account management and payment systems outside of their app.

Apple has made these changes in response to the class-action lawsuit filed by US developers, resolved in August. These adjustments don’t yet bring Apple into compliance with the Epic Games decision or the Japan Fair Trade Commission’s order.

Apple claims that it will update its App Store rules to meet the JFTC decision in early 2022, while the Epic Games case is still being appealed.

Upcoming changes for “reader” apps

On September 1, 2021, Apple released a statement regarding an upcoming change to the App Store. According to the release, Apple has agreed to let developers provide users with a link to their website where customers can create and manage their accounts, or complete a payment.

While the deal was made with the JFTC, Apple will implement this change across all reader apps on the store worldwide.

Apple’s press release further clarifies developers will be able to link to external websites to let users make a payment:

While in-app purchases through the App Store commerce system remain the safest and most trusted payment methods for users, Apple will also help developers of reader apps protect users when they link them to an external website to make purchases.

It’s worth noting that this change will only impact “reader” apps: “Reader apps provide previously purchased material or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video.”

This will definitely include the native news and content apps our customers create with MobiLoud News, and apps for digital libraries, courses and membership sites that our customers publish with Canvas.

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