Apple Scraps Separate App Binary Prerequisite in Dutch Dating App Dispute

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 30 Mar 2022

The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in the Netherlands has already fined Apple €5 million ($5.5 million) ten times because it failed to provide an actionable plan to let dating app developers in the country use third-party payment systems for in-app purchases (IAPs). One of Apple’s conditions was that developers would have to create separate app binaries for the Dutch market. The company has now eliminated this requirement.

Apple’s announcement of the revised terms specifies that app developers need not submit separate app binaries. However, they can only accept payments processed by third parties in the Netherlands for IAPs made on iPhones and iPads.

Removal of the Separate Binary Requirement: Apple is eliminating the requirement that developers of dating apps in the Netherlands who choose to use the above entitlements must create and use a separate binary. This change means that developers may include either entitlement in their existing dating app, but still must limit its use to the app in the Netherlands storefront and on devices running iOS or iPadOS.”

The company also specified two other changes to its policy for the Dutch dating apps:

Payment Service Provider Criteria: Apple is providing updated and more-specific criteria to evaluate non-Apple payment service providers that developers of dating apps in the Netherlands may use.

Consumer Disclosures: Apps that use either entitlement need to include an in-app modal sheet that explains to users that they’re going to make purchases through an external payment system, and the potential impact that choice could have on the user. Apple is adjusting the language on the modal sheet and reducing the number of times the sheet must be displayed.”

Apple’s 30 percent commission on IAPs and its practice of using proprietary systems to process payments drew the attention of the ACM in January this year. The market regulator ruled that the Cupertino-based firm should open up its system to encourage fair play and competition. The company’s initial compliance plan was shot down for being “insufficient.”

Subsequently, Apple suggested it will drop the commission down to 27 percent and let dating app developers in the Netherlands use third-party payment systems. However, it laid down a condition that developers must submit separate app binaries for the Dutch market. This did not benefit developers since third-party payment systems also charge commissions varying between one and three percent, negating any monetary advantage despite the effort they would invest in creating separate app binaries.

Apple also mandated that developers display an intimidating-looking modal sheet seeking customer approval before redirecting to the third party for the IAP payment. Several developers complained that the language in the modal sheet would scare customers into preferring Apple’s proprietary system anyway.

However, Apple’s announced changes are perhaps too little and too late. Although the ACM hit the maximum penalty amount it could levy on the company, another Dutch body called the Consumer Competition Claims Foundation (CCCF) announced plans to drag Apple to court for a multibillion-euro suit for “overcharging” App Store users. The CCCF will be represented in court by Scott + Scott, a law firm with a proven history of winning colossal settlements in suits against Big Tech firms such as Google and Facebook. Lest we forget, the European Union is parallelly going after Apple’s bottom line with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which could force the company to modify App Store policies.

Do you think the ACM or other Dutch regulatory authorities will reduce pressure on Apple’s jugular since the company is now making changes favorable to the developers? Tell us in the comments.

[Via Apple]