Apple allows third-party payment options for dating apps in the Netherlands, but there’s a catch

Apple will allow dating apps in the Netherlands to offer users non-Apple payment options under a recent order issued by the National Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), the business said January 14.

But even if developers choose to forgo Apple’s in-app purchase system, they still have to pay the company a commission on transactions, Apple noted. The company, however, did not say whether the same 15-30% would apply or a reduced rate.

These changes also might not be permanent as Apple has already appealed the ACM’s decision to a higher court. “We are concerned that these changes will compromise user experience and create new threats to user privacy and data security,” the company said.

What prompted the Dutch regulator to issue this order?

ACM launched an investigation into Apple in 2019 following several complaints, including from Match Group, the company behind popular dating apps Tinder and Hinge.

In a statement to Axios in 2020, a Match Group representative said:

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Apple is a partner, but also a dominant platform whose actions force the vast majority of consumers to pay more for third-party apps that Apple arbitrarily defines as “digital services.” Apple is squeezing sectors such as e-books, music and video streaming, cloud storage, games and online dating for 30% of their revenue, which is all the more alarming as Apple enters next in this space, as we have seen many times. We are fully aware of their power over us. They claim that we are asking for a “free ride” when in reality “digital services” is the only app category that has to pay app store fees.

Following his investigation, in his order As of December 24, 2021, ACM said it ordered Apple to adapt its unreasonable App Store terms that apply to dating app providers. Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, said:

“Some application providers depend on Apple’s App Store, and Apple profits from this dependency. Apple has special responsibilities because of its dominant position. That’s why Apple must also take the interests of application providers seriously. ‘applications and set reasonable terms. That’s what we’re forcing Apple to do with this order.

ACM noted that Apple’s Developer Terms “are not commensurate with the additional payment service” and “the Terms are not necessary to operate the App Store”, which is why they are “unreasonable and in infringement of competition rules”.

What changes for dating apps in the Netherlands?

Going forward, dating app developers have the following three payment options for the Dutch version of the app:

  1. continue to use Apple’s in-app purchase system
  2. include an in-app link directing customers to the developer’s website to make a purchase
  3. use a third-party payment system in the application.

For options 2 and 3, developers will need to submit a application form to receive the appropriate rights, which will be available shortly, Apple said.

Responsibilities of developers choosing alternative payment options: Apple added a word of warning for developers choosing to opt out of Apple’s payment system:

“Before you consider requesting any of these rights, it’s important to understand that some App Store features that you may use will not be available to your customers, in part because we cannot validate the security and security of payments that occur outside of the App Store’s private and secure payment system. Since Apple will not be directly aware of purchases made using alternative methods, Apple will not be able to assist users with refunds, purchase history, subscription management, and other issues encountered when purchasing digital goods and services through these alternative purchase methods.You will be responsible for resolving these issues with customers.” – Apple

Is Apple slowly losing control of the App Store?

The news comes a week after the Korea Communication Commission (KCC) said Apple had submitted plans to allow South Korean developers to use third-party payment systems in their apps under the country’s new law.

These two developments are the latest signs that Apple and Google are losing tight control over their respective app stores and they signal what is to come to the rest of the world as developers in many other countries, including India, demand to flexibility in choosing payment systems.

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In India, the competition watchdog recently launched an investigation into Apple and is already investigating Google about it.

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Joseph K. Bennett