The so-called “Apple Tax” seems innocuous and on par with other digital storefronts like Steam. However, some see the never-ending cut into their revenue streams as an intrusion into a business model in which Apple has no vested interest. Furthermore, informing users of the fee when they are about to be charged is deemed “irrelevant information” prohibited by App Store policy.
Apple has finally agreed to waive its 30-percent App Store fee for firms participating in Facebook’s small business relief effort. The Facebook program runs through August 2021, but Apple only agreed to the waiver through December. Game creators are excluded from the benefit because Apple says their business model does not require them to keep a physical storefront.
In August, Facebook launched a program to help small businesses struggling with COVID-19 closures earn a little extra revenue on online event sales. The plan was to suspend fees on ticket revenues until August 2021. Facebook asked Apple if it could temporarily waive in-app purchase fees so that the businesses would get 100 percent of iPhone users’ sales, but Cupertino declined.
“We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19,” said Facebook app exec Fidji Simo. “Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and [small businesses] will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue.”
Facebook planned to inform users within its app that part of those sales was still going to the 30-percent App Store fee. However, Apple told them to scrap the message citing that it went against guidelines regarding showing “irrelevant” information to users. Facebook framed it as a conflict of “transparency” standards between the two tech giants.
Making Apple out to be the bad guy that is against letting small businesses get back on their feet seemed to be an effective tactic, at least to some extent. Apple will not collect fees for the next few months, but firms will see the tax kick back in starting next year.
It’s a small victory for Facebook and those subjected to the App Store tax, but it’s just one of many battles over Apple’s walled garden occurring on several fronts. The tech titan’s legal team is currently preparing to appear in US court against Epic for banning Fortnite and developer accounts. In the EU, the company is embroiled in an antitrust probe. Most recently, Spotify, Epic, Basecamp, ProtonMail, and others have formed the Coalition for App Fairness to advocate for bringing back the free market to closed app ecosystems.
There is no lack of Apple hate going around right now.