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Apple’s Payment Options Offering for Dutch Dating Apps Is Compliant, Says ACM

By on June 13, 2022 0

The Dutch competition regulator is finally happy with Apple’s concessions to allow market dating apps to use alternative payment technologies.

On Saturday, the Consumers and Markets Authority (ACM) took stock of the saga of several months which attracted high level attention on Apple’s approach to complying with competition orders, saying the tech giant changed unfair terms it imposed following a regulator order allowing dating apps to use a non-Apple payment technology for processing in-app purchases.

“Until recently, dating app customers could only pay using Apple’s mandated payment method. In ACM’s view, Apple has abused its dominant position with these practices,” wrote l ‘ACM in the update. “Now dating app providers can let their customers pay in different ways.”

The ACM has imposed a series of fines on Apple since January – totaling 50 million euros – for failing to fulfill his order, and had warned that he could impose further penalties if Apple did not resolve his concerns.

The watchdog had considered a revised offer made by Apple back in march — after finding problems with how Apple had implemented previous concessions and judging the conditions he applied to be “unreasonable“, while accusing him of creating an “unnecessary barrier” for developers of dating applications.

“Apple is now playing by the rules,” the regulator added. “Therefore, ACM no longer needs to impose a new order with penalty payments. Over the past few months, ACM had collected information from dating app providers and independent experts before evaluating whether 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 responsibility 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 revised its dealership to satisfy the ACM aren’t immediately clear – but, among a number of changes to its original offering, Apple previously abandoned a requirement that dating apps compile a separate binary that the regulator had deemed too cumbersome.

In Documentation For developers distributing dating apps in the Netherlands, Apple confirms that they can do one of the following:

  1. continue to use Apple’s in-app purchase system,

  2. use a third-party payment system within the application,

  3. include an in-app link directing users to the developer’s website to make a purchase, or

  4. use a third-party payment system within 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 succeeded in suspending part of it until after that (ongoing) the opposition procedure against the complete 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 made no further public remarks – but pointed to a update he posted Friday where he discusses “additional tweaks” he’s made to his offering after further conversations with the ACM, which he 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 qualify for its lower commission rate (15%).

In its developer documentation, Apple also discusses this discount, writing the:

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 privacy or data security interests of our users. Because Apple is committed to constructive engagement with regulators, we are making the additional changes to ACM’s request. As we previously said, 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

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