Apple agrees to key App Store changes to settle class action suit

Apple agrees to key App Store changes to settle class action suit
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Apple will make several key changes to its App Store as part of a settlement deal with app developers that garnered scrutiny over the tech giant’s policies and market power. 

Notably, Apple will allow developers to communicate with customers to share information about payment methods outside of Apple’s payment system. The communication will let developers circumvent paying Apple’s commission, Apple said in the late Thursday announcement.

As part of the deal, subject to approval by a federal judge, the tech giant will also establish a fund to assist small developers.

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Eligible developers must have earned $1 million or less "for all of their apps in every calendar year in which the developers had an account between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021," which Apple said makes up 99 percent of developers in the U.S. The fund is reportedly $100 million. 

The tech giant will also create an annual transparency report based on app store data, according to the announcement. 

Apple is agreeing to some crucial concessions in the proposed deal, but the App Store’s structure will largely remain the same, including Apple’s commission charges. Larger developers will still be subject to Apple’s standard commission fees, and developers that earn less than $1 million annually will still pay the reduced commission, according to the announcement. 

Apple’s up to 30 percent commission fees have been a key sticking point raised by app developers, and it is largely the focus of a separate trial between the tech giant and Fortnite developer Epic Games. 

The trial is awaiting a decision by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, the same judge who will need to approve the settlement Apple announced Thursday. 

Apple’s concessions in the settlement come as the tech giant faces threats of increased regulation of its app store from Congress. 

Bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced bills earlier this month that aim to rein in Apple and Google's dominance in the app store market. The proposals would end requirements that app developers use the app stores run by the companies.