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

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If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Apple and its App Store policies, which have come under scrutiny in recent years because of the commission Apple receives from in-app payments.

Now Apple’s infamous ‘Apple Tax’ seems to have been defeated… at least in South Korea. 9to5Mac reports that Apple is now allowing developers in South Korea to offer alternative payment systems.

The infamous Apple Tax is disappearing in South Korea…somewhat

South Korean regulators have a antitrust law of August 2021, which affects both Apple and Google to allow developers to use alternative payment methods in their apps in the App Store and Google Play. As you might imagine, Apple initially appealed the decision but later backed out and decided to comply. And now it’s official: as of today, developers can finally request other payment methods in apps in the App Store (in South Korea).

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

The situation here is similar to what happened when the Netherlands had a problem with Apple’s in-app payment system requirement for Dutch dating apps. To comply with Dutch law, Apple has created a special clause for dating apps in the country. Now a similar situation is occurring in South Korea, so no, this possibility is not yet universal.

Basically, the new special clause requires all developers who want to use a different payment system to create a new version of their app exclusively for the South Korean App Store. And features like Ask to Buy and Family Sharing are not available for such apps. And it’s understandable that Apple takes no responsibility for subscription management or refunds.

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

Where does all this actually come from? Undoubtedly, the whole App Store and Apple Commission situation started back with Epic Games.

For those of you who don’t remember, Epic Games quietly has a alternative payment for his game Fortnite in 2020, which caused the developer to lose his App Store developer account… and the fight 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 refer users to alternative payment methods. Yes, Apple has appealed this ban and requested that it be delayed, but the appeal was rejected.

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

But it seems that despite all the pressure, Apple isn’t willing to completely revamp its App Store policy, at least not for now. As you can see, countries where the company is required by law to allow certain things have exclusive rules just for them. It doesn’t seem possible at this point for an important rule of the kind that South Korean developers must enforce.

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

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