Letter criticises App Store policies as EU opens antitrust investigation

Letter criticises App Store policies as EU opens antitrust investigation
Editor at TechForge Media. Often sighted at global tech conferences with a coffee in one hand and laptop in the other. If it's geeky, I'm probably into it.

A developer has penned an open letter criticising the App Store’s policies just a week after the EU announced it’s launched an antitrust investigation.

In a letter, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried set out his issues with the App Store’s payment policies.

Fried admits that money, specifically the 30 percent cut which Apple takes, is “a large part of the story” – but it’s the “absence of choice and how Apple forcibly inserts themselves between [the] company and [its] customer” which he has the most problem with.

Basecamp’s multi-platform email app Hey costs $99/year and requires subscribing via the web to access. Apple reportedly took issue with this approach and rejected an update which Basecamp attempted to rollout.

In a letter to Basecamp, Apple said that developers must offer in-app purchasing for new features and functionality (of which it can take that 30 percent cut).

The contentious 30 percent cut isn’t unique to Apple’s store – Google takes the same percentage for the Play Store on Android, as does Steam on PC (after $10m in sales through Steam, the cut drops to 25% on all new sales. It drops further to 20% on sales after $50 million.)

However, while the Play Store is the most popular app store on Android – it is technically possible to install other app stores (and even bypass one altogether.)

Epic Games attempted to avoid the Play Store for its release of Fortnite on Android but dodgy copycats took advantage with malware-ridden alternatives. It seems Epic Games also struggled to get the desired traction off Google’s official store as the company ultimately caved and released Fortnite on the Play Store.

The European Commission is now turning its gaze to Apple’s practices and has opened investigations into the App Store and Apple Pay due to complaints filed by Spotify and, reportedly, e-reader app Kobo.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple SVP Phil Schiller said that Basecamp was approved in error and the developers could have made the app acceptable by charging different prices on the web and in the app.

Fried ended his letter with the following:

“So what do we want? I’m not saying IAP shouldn’t exist, or shouldn’t be an option. For some businesses, it might make sense. If Apple is sending you all your customers, it probably does make sense. The 30% rate is still highway robbery, as Congressman Cicilline recently said in an interview, but the fundamental problem for us is the lack of choice.

Apple, please just give your developers the choice! Let us bill our own customers through our own systems, so we can help them with extensions, refunds, discounts, or whatever else our own way. It’s our business, not your business. And Phil Schiller’s suggestion that we should raise prices on iOS customers to make up for Apple’s added margin is antitrust gold.”

Ouch. You can find Fried’s full open letter here.

(Photo by William Iven on Unsplash)

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