Apple updates App Store Guidelines in response to classaction lawsuit from developers

Apple is announcing a trio of updates to the App Store Guidelines today that focuses on giving developers more flexibility for communicating with their customers. One of the changes specifically comes to address Apple’s settlement in a class-action lawsuit from small developers in the US, first announced back in August.

As background, Apple promised a handful of small App Store changes back in August as part of its settlement with small developers in the United States. One of the most notable changes announced at the time was that developers would be able to communicate outside of their applications about alternatives to Apple’s in-app purchase system.

In line with this settlement, Apple says that it is updating guideline 3.1.3 to remove its previous restriction on using customer communication information obtained with an application to communicate outside the application about payment methods other than in-app purchase. Apple says this update satisfies the terms of the settlement.

Here is the wording of guideline 3.1.3 prior to today’s update (emphasis ours):

The following apps may use purchase methods other than in-app purchase. Apps in this section cannot, within the app, encourage users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase. Developers cannot use information obtained within the app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than in-app purchase (such as sending an individual user an email about other purchasing methods after that individual signs up for an account within the app). Developers can send communications outside of the app to their user base about purchasing methods other than in-app purchase.

And here is the wording of guideline 3.1.3 following today’s revision:

The following apps may use purchase methods other than in-app purchase. Apps in this section cannot, within the app, encourage users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase. Developers can send communications outside of the app to their user base about purchasing methods other than in-app purchase.

To go along with this update, Apple is also adding a new guideline saying that apps may request basic contact information from users, with some restrictions:

Apps may request basic contact information (such as name and email address) so long as the request is optional for the user, features and services are conditional on providing the information, and it complies with other provisions of these guidelines, including limitations on collecting information from kids.

In practice, this means that developers will be able to collect contact information from users (as long as it’s not required), then use that contact information to communicate outside of their application (such as with email), about more purchase and payment options that are perhaps cheaper than in-app options.

It’s important to keep in mind that changes are solely in response to the class-action lawsuit from US developers that Apple settled in August. These changes do not put Apple in compliance with the Epic Games ruling or the ruling from the Japan Fair Trade Commission. While the Epic Games case is being appealed, Apple says that it will update its App Store guidelines to accommodate the JFTC ruling in early 2022.

Apple is also making tweaks to the App Store guidelines to accommodate In-App Events, as we reported earlier this week. You can read the full App Store Review Guidelines on Apple’s Developer website here.

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