Is TikTok Circumventing Apple App Store in-app Purchase Commissions Through External Links?

By Mehek May 1, 2024 #App Store #Apple #TikTok
Is TikTok Circumventing Apple App Store in-app Purchase Commissions Through External Links?

TikTok Under Scrutiny for Circumventing Apple’s App Store Commission Policies

TikTok, the wildly popular social media platform, is facing allegations of circumventing Apple’s App Store in-app purchase commission policies. The controversy stems from the discovery of external links that allow users to purchase virtual currency, known as coins, on TikTok’s website instead of through the App Store’s in-app purchase system.

External Links Bypassing App Store Guidelines

Apple’s App Store guidelines strictly regulate in-app purchases and external linking. While the company recently removed its anti-steering clause, which prevented developers from directing users to external websites for purchases, TikTok’s approach appears to violate other guidelines.

The external links in question are presented to users as a way to save 25% on coin purchases made outside the App Store. However, concerns have been raised that these links may be violating the requirement for an interstitial warning when users are redirected to an external website for purchases. Moreover, even with external payment options, TikTok is still obligated to pay Apple a commission minus a 3% processing fee, making the purported 25% discount offered by TikTok impossible through external links.

High-Value User Targeting

Interestingly, the option to use external links seems to be limited to users who purchase large quantities of coins, exceeding the 3,000 coin limit on iOS. This strategic targeting of high-value users may have allowed TikTok to avoid detection by Apple’s review process.

App Store Ban on the Horizon?

If TikTok is found to be violating Apple’s guidelines, it could face a temporary App Store update freeze or even a complete ban, similar to what happened to Fortnite when Epic Games blatantly disregarded the rules. However, the situation with TikTok is likely to be more nuanced, and it remains to be seen if Apple will take such drastic measures.

Legal Implications and User Backlash

The controversy surrounding TikTok’s external links comes amid increased scrutiny of Apple’s App Store policies, particularly in the United States. Legislation is pending that could force Apple to divest or leave the US market if it is found to be engaging in anti-competitive practices. Any ban on TikTok would likely face significant backlash from its massive user base, further fueling the debate over Apple’s control over its App Store.

As the situation evolves, it will be crucial for TikTok to address Apple’s concerns and ensure compliance with the App Store guidelines. Failure to do so could not only result in a ban from the App Store but also raise questions about the company’s commitment to fair competition.

By Mehek

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