I can have app store? Apple: yes but NO! Give €1,000,000 + lock in to Apple ecosystem. This is how to “comply” with EU anti competition law

a rotting apple core with a closed padlock running through it

Apple is keeping a firm grip on people with alternative marketplaces, fleecing them for money but also for other control. Here are some of the terms Apple requires you to conform to in order to start up your own app store (which they call alternative marketplace):

If you’re interested in becoming a marketplace developer in the EU, the Account Holder of your Apple Developer Program membership will first need to agree to the Alternative Terms Addendum for Apps in the EU. Once they’ve agreed, they can submit a request for the entitlement.

To qualify for the entitlement, you must:

  • Be enrolled in the Apple Developer Program as an organization incorporated, domiciled, and or registered in the EU (or have a subsidiary legal entity incorporated, domiciled, and or registered in the EU that’s listed in App Store Connect). The location associated with your legal entity is listed in your Apple Developer account.
  • Agree to build an app whose primary purpose is discovery and distribution of apps, including apps from other developers.
  • Agree to provide and publish terms, including those pertaining to content and business model, for apps you will distribute, and accept apps that meet those terms.
  • […]

But what rankles most is the amount of money Apple not only fleeces from marketplaces for every installation – especially considering that Apple is not doing anything for the download – but that the barrier to entry is set at ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Understanding payments, fees, and taxes

Stand-by letter of credit

In order to establish adequate financial means to guarantee support for developers and customers, marketplace developers must provide Apple a stand-by letter of credit from an A-rated (or equivalent by S&P, Fitch, or Moody’s) financial Institution of €1,000,000 prior to receiving the entitlement. It will need to be auto-renewed on a yearly basis.

Core Technology Fee

The DMA requires Apple to support distribution and payment processing alternatives that are facilitated outside the App Store. To reflect the value Apple provides marketplace developers with ongoing investments in developer tools, technologies, and program services, Apple has introduced a Core Technology Fee.

  • Marketplace developers will need to pay €0.50 for each first annual install of their marketplace app. First annual installs included in your Apple Developer Program membership can’t be used for marketplace apps.
Source: Getting started as an alternative app marketplace in the European Union

Of course, Apple is the one deciding if you are allowed to create an app store. What is the likelihood of that happening? Should you be one of the happy few (uhm, wait – didn’t the EU have this ruling as part of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), an anti competitive set of laws, aimed at allowing EVERYONE access?), then you still have to build an Apple App – ie you have to pay Apple to have your app in the app store and they will review your app in their app store. In the words of Apple:

An alternative app marketplace is an iOS app from which someone can install other third-party apps. To create a marketplace, fill out a webform that outlines the qualifications. If approved, Apple enables a code-signing entitlement on your account to distribute your marketplace app on the web. Apple also provides you with a framework that facilitates the secure installation of apps that your marketplace hosts.

To set up a marketplace, upload a public key, or marketplace key, to App Store Connect that regularly verifies the agreement, or relationship, you make with other developers that distribute their app on your marketplace.

The architecture of an app marketplace includes an iOS app, a webpage, from which people download your app, and a webserver that stores app data it regularly receives from App Store Connect.

Source: Creating an alternative app marketplace

So the value Apple describes above is basically that they force you to set up your App store from inside their App store. Apple then tells you how to run it and wants to know exactly what is going on inside it, so they can grab their €0.50 per year per app downloaded from it.

So really, the way in which Apple is conforming to the EU DMA is by offering a massive finger to the EU and it’s developers.

Robin Edgar

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