In order to settle an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), Apple has announced that it will soon let certain apps provide links to external websites for account setups and payments. The company will extend this provision to “reader” apps across multiple genres, like magazines, newspapers, books, and media streaming.
Although Apple announced this change as part of an agreement made with the JFTC, it won’t be limited to the Japanese market. In a statement announcing the update, Apple notes: “While the agreement was made with the JFTC, Apple will apply this change globally to all reader apps on the store. Reader apps provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video.”
In effect, this change will allow apps like Netflix and Spotify to provide in-app links to help users set up an account or make payments. Currently, Apple forces such apps to use its in-app purchase system, which nets Apple up to 30% in commissions. However, after this change goes into effect early next year, reader apps will be able to bypass that fee.
This is what you get when trying to sign up for Netflix on the iPhone today. In early 2022, it’ll be a button that points you to Netflix’s website to sign up and pay there. This is a major, structural change that will save Apple a lot of scrutiny. pic.twitter.com/8iWDUTceZK
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) September 2, 2021
As Bloomberg notes, games will not be “affected by this change and Apple’s decision won’t resolve its legal dispute with Epic Games Inc. over in-app purchases.” That’s because reader apps, unlike games, don’t offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase.
Apple has further revealed that before the change goes into effect, it will “update its guidelines and review process to make sure users of reader apps continue to have a safe experience on the App Store.” To this end, the company also plans to help developers of reader apps protect their users when they visit an external website for purchases.
It’s worth mentioning that this new development comes just days after South Korea passed a bill to force Apple and Google to open up their app stores to alternative payment systems. The bill also blocks both companies from delaying app approval or unfairly banning apps from their respective marketplace for using alternative payment systems.