Changes to U.S. iOS App Store Policies Allow External Purchase Links

January 17th, 2024 by Vladimir Katalov
Category: «General»

In a controversial move, Apple is implementing major changes to its U.S. iOS App Store policies, granting developers the ability to direct customers to non-App Store purchasing options for digital goods. This update permits users to make in-app purchases through an alternative method. However, Apple will continue to collect a commission ranging from 12 to 27 percent on content purchased through this avenue, providing only a 3 percentage points commission cut compared to purchases made through the official Apple App Store.

This move is not unprecedented. In Netherlands, the company had to comply with an order from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), allowing developers distributing dating apps on the Netherlands App Store to “use a third-party payment system within the app, include an in-app link directing users to the developer’s website to complete a purchase, or use a third-party payment system within the app and include a link directing users to the developer’s website to complete a purchase” (source). In Russia, the company allowed developers from Russia to add payment links to applications outside the App Store system (WNHub) to comply with a court order, which is not directly accessible to visitors outside of Russia. The company’s official statement on the matter is not accessible to anyone but developers with Russian developer accounts. Finally, Apple states that the Telecommunications Business Act in South Korea mandated that apps distributed by app market operators in South Korea be allowed to offer an alternative payment processing option within their apps.

Apple’s new U.S. iOS App Store policy does not quote any legislation or court order. In an update to App Store Review Guidelines, Apple states:

  • Added 3.1.1 (a): Link to Other Purchase Methods. Developers may apply for the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement (US) to provide a link in their app to a website the developer owns or maintains responsibility for in order to purchase such items.

Developers opting for this alternative will be required to apply for a StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement, as outlined in the updated ‌App Store‌ Review Guidelines. With this Link Entitlement, developers gain the ability to guide users to an external purchasing mechanism. Such entitlement, if granted, is restricted to use only in the App Store on the United States storefront. In all other storefronts, apps are prohibited from including buttons, external links, or calls to action leading customers to purchasing mechanisms other than official in-app purchases.

According to Apple, a commission will still apply to digital purchases facilitated through the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement (US). The External Purchase Link Entitlement commission will be reduced by 3 percentage points compared to the fee charged for purchases made through the official App Store. This makes it a 27 per cent fee for purchases and one-year subscriptions, while the fee drops to 12 percent on the second year of a subscription.

Additional information:

U.S. Developers Can Now Offer Non-App Store Purchasing Option, But Apple Will Still Collect Commissions – MacRumors

Distributing apps in the U.S. that provide an external purchase link – Support – Apple Developer