Apple will let some apps guide users to websites to make payments, bypassing Apple’s cut

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., on Monday, June 4, 2018. 

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple on Wednesday said that some apps will be allowed to provide a link to their websites to prompt users to sign up for a subscription.

Apple previously forbid app makers from directing users to subscribe through a website, for example to sign up for a service like Spotify or Netflix. Instead, developers were directed to Apple’s own billing, which takes between 15% and 30% of the gross sales.

The rule does not apply to all transactions through the App Store. Game oriented in-app purchases will still need to use Apple’s payment system. But so-called “reader apps” that link to content subscriptions can now offer a service without offering a subscription handled through Apple.

The issue is one of the main complaints of developers who say Apple’s App Store has anticompetitive practices. Those include Spotify, whose complaint was a factor in the European Union’s decision to say Apple breaks competition rules.

Apple said the decision was made as part of a settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission but that it was applying the new rule globally.

But it will take some time before developers have more clarity on the new App Store policies. Apple’s App Store rules have not been updated yet to reflect the change, meaning companies will have to wait and read the fine print before they can make any changes to their apps. In fact, people familiar with Spotify’s plans told CNBC Thursday that they’re not sure if the new policies will apply to Spotify at all.

Apple declined to comment beyond its announcement Wednesday night.

–CNBC’s Steve Kovach contributed to this report.

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