Tim Sweeney brands Apple’s IAP chicanery “a sham”


Apple’s attempt to comply with competition legislation in the Netherlands is “a sham”, according to Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney.

Why? In short, a law was passed in the Netherlands to force Apple to allow alternative payment methods within dating apps, to encourage greater competition in the space. 

In response, Apple added some extra steps to the process for developers who want to offer customers that choice. First they have to release a different, Netherlands-only binary that contains those new payment systems, and then warn customers if they are about to make a transaction not processed or secured by Apple.

Then, once the developer has followed those (pretty inconvenient) extra steps, Apple’s going to take a 27% cut of the IAP anyway. Yikes.

Enter Sweeney, who, having read Marco Arment’s Twitter thread on the changes, said: “Apple knows their actions are a sham. The world knows their actions are a sham. Apple knows the world knows their actions are a sham. Yet Apple continues the sham.”

Naturally, Apple doesn’t want to surrender its 30% IAP commission in this case for fear of weakening its overall argument: that using its IAP system is the most secure and safe way to run its App Store. And it probably is, to give Apple credit (Its argument that allowing alternative payments would turn the store into some crazed Wild West, however, is really weak). 

Here’s where Apple confirms it’ll be taking 27% of alternative IAP.

So if it won’t budge an inch on that, Apple is instead making it tricky for developers to offer alternative payments, and then taking a very similar amount in commission to its typical 30% for the honour of doing so. And so Apple will likely get its wish here and very few, if any, dating apps will bother to go down this route. No-one wins, and the legislation fails.

It is the legislation itself that Apple has been able to exploit here. Apple makes it clear that charging a commission even on payments outside of its IAP structures is “consistent with the order” imposed upon the App Store by the Netherlands. 

By making that commission 27%, it is saying to developers that it genuinely thinks it deserves about that much of its IAP business. And it knows that if it budges more than a measly 3% on this one, it’ll encourage other legislators around the world to try and take a little more.

So while it’s not technically doing anything wrong here, the spirit of Apple’s interpretation of this order is the thing that’s iffy. Or, you know, a ”sham”, if you’re Tim Sweeney.

So his dream of freer, fairer app stores remains elusive – clearly, the next government that tries to wrestle IAP cash out of Apple’s hands will need to be much, much more aggressive.

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