Apple is facing more headaches over its App Store fees after its critics created a new coalition called the ‘Coalition for App Fairness‘.

Members include some big names who have clashed very publicly with Apple recently, and the fees and restrictions that Apple forces developers to adhere to. It includes Spotify, Match Group and ‘Fortnite’ creator Epic Games.

Apple has robustly defended its commission charge of between 15-30 percent for apps that use its in-app payment system. It also imposes strict rules that apps must comply with to appear in its App Store, which is the only venue where iPhone and iPad can download apps for their devices.

App Store challenge

The Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) is reportedly structured as a non-profit based in Washington, DC and Brussels.

Smaller members include Basecamp, Blix, Blockchain.com, Deezer, and Tile, along with developers from Europe including the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe and Protonmail.

“As enforcers, regulators, and legislators around the world investigate Apple for its anti-competitive behavior, The Coalition for App Fairness will be the voice of app and game developers in the effort to protect consumer choice and create a level playing field for all,” said Horacio Gutierrez, head of global affairs and chief legal officer at Spotify.

“The basic freedoms of developers are under attack,” added Tim Sweeney, CEO and founder of Epic Games. “We are joining the Coalition for App Fairness to defend the fundamental rights of creators to build apps and to do business directly with their customers. We are an advocate for any company that’s ready to reclaim its rights and challenge the anti-competitive behaviours that exist on app stores today.”

According to CAF, the “gatekeeper platforms that operate these app stores must not abuse the control they enjoy and must adhere to oversight to ensure their behaviours promote a competitive market and provide consumers with equitable choice.”

“For years, app developers have been publicly and privately raising concerns about the onerous, and arbitrary terms and conditions that govern the Apple App Store in particular, as well as last-minute iOS updates, which equally disadvantage developers,” said CAF.

“Yet little has changed. And, as a result, frustrations over the excessive fees charged and over the rules that give Apple’s own apps an unfair advantage and block innovative competitors have boiled over with formal complaints to regulators and lawsuits,” it added. “Developers and consumers are demanding that Apple do better.”

“Apple’s IAP forces consumers to pay higher prices by inserting Apple between app developers and their users, leading to customer confusion and dissatisfaction that has far-reaching implications for our businesses,” added Mark Buse, SVP and head of global government relations & policy at Match Group.

“Match Group joins the Coalition in its efforts to ensure everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of a fair app ecosystem,” he added.

CAF also laid out ten “App Store Principles” it plans to demand, including that “No developer should be required to pay unfair, unreasonable or discriminatory fees or revenue shares.”

Antitrust and lawsuits

Apple is dealing with both antitrust investigations and lawsuits over its App Store policies, both in the US and Europe.

There is an EU antitrust investigation over Apple Pay and the Apple App Store, after Spotify filed an official complaint in 2019 and accused Apple of unfairly using the dominance of its App Store to give the Apple Music service a competitive advantage.

The Spotify complaint centred on Apple’s policy of charging digital content providers a 30 percent fee for using its payment system for subscriptions sold in the App Store.

Apple is also currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Epic Games, which sued after the iPad maker (and Google) removed Fornite from their respective App Stores.

The lawsuit began after Epic allowed players to purchase in-game currency directly from itself, bypassing Apple and Google’s payment systems and the 30 percent commission they charge.

Meanwhile a trade body of news publishers last month also wrote an open letter to CEO Tim Cook, demanding more favourable terms on the commission Apple collects from them for online payments.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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