Apple now allows developers to use alternative app payment systems in South Korea (but not for free)

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you have most probably heard about Apple and its App Store policies, which were under scrutiny in the past couple of years, because of the commission Apple takes from in-app payments.

Now, Apple’s infamous ‘Apple Tax’ seems to have been beaten… at least in South Korea. 9to5Mac reports that Apple will now be letting developers in South Korea offer alternative payment systems.

The infamous Apple Tax goes away in South Korea… somewhat

South Korean regulators have passed an antitrust law back in August 2021, which forced both Apple and Google to allow developers to have alternative payment methods in their apps in the App Store and Google Play. As you may imagine, Apple first appealed the decision but later backed off and decided to comply. And now, it’s official: starting today developers can finally apply to use other payment methods in apps in the App Store (in South Korea, that is).

But still, Apple has not completely given up on its ways. The Cupertino company will still charge a 26% commission for transactions made outside of the App Store (transactions from the App Store have a 30% commission for those of you who don’t know).

The situation here is similar to what unfolded back when the Netherlands had an issue with Apple’s in-app payment system requirement for Dutch dating apps. In order to comply with Dutch law, Apple created a special clause for dating apps in the country. Now, a similar situation is happening in South Korea, so no, this possibility is not yet universal.

Basically, the new special clause requires all developers that want to use another payment system to create a new version of their app exclusively for the South Korean App Store. And, features such as Ask to Buy and Family Sharing won’t be available for such apps. And, understandably, Apple will not take responsibility for any subscription management or refunds.

Developers will still need to have their payment provider verified by Apple if it’s not one of the four South Korean payment providers that were qualified.

Where is all this actually coming from? Arguably the entire situation around the App Store and the commission taken from Apple started back with Epic Games.

For those of you who don’t remember, Epic Games silently added an alternative payment for its game Fortnite in 2020, which resulted in the developer losing its App Store developer account… and the battle was then taken to court. The lawsuit between the two companies was largely won by Apple, but there was one count where Apple lost. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers then forced Apple to allow developers to direct users to alternative payment methods. Yes, Apple did appeal this injunction and requested a delay in the implementation of it, but the appeal was rejected.

Apple has also faced scrutiny from antitrust organizations and even governmental regulators, some aiming for Cupertino to allow sideloading (basically, downloading an app on iPhone or iPad from other places apart from the App Store), some claiming that the requirement for web browsers on iPhone to use WebKit was anti-competitive.

But it seems Apple is not willing to completely revamp its App Store policies despite all the pressure, at least not for now. As you can see, countries, where the company is forced to allow certain things by law, get exclusive rules just for them. It doesn’t seem possible at the moment for a major rule of the sort that South Korean developers got to be enforced.

And, as you can see, Apple will still be getting commission from the South Korean developers… and whether or not this is fair is a subjective matter, depending on which side you decide to take.


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