Illinois is the latest state to attempt to pass legislation that would prevent developers from being required to use Apple’s in-app purchase options by allowing for alternate payment solutions within apps.
As outlined by Arizona news site WGEM, under the Freedom to Describe Directly Act, distribution platforms like the App Store and Google Play would not be able to force Illinois developers to use a “particular in-application payment system” as the exclusive mode for accepting payments, nor would they be able to retaliate against developers who opt to use an alternate payment option.
Illinois-based Basecamp CEO David Heinemeier-Hansson, who in 2020 was involved in a public dispute with Apple over email app “Hey,” is one of the supporters of the new bill. When launched, the Hey app did not work without a subscription, but did not include an option to purchase a subscription in the app and instead opened straight to a login screen.
Apple did not believe that an app opening to a login was an ideal user experience and threatened to remove Hey from the App Store if a subscription option wasn’t added. Hey ultimately got around the restriction by offering a free option that users could test when first installing the app.
Heinemeier-Hansson has since been championing various state bills that attempt to provide developers with non-App Store payment options, but none of these bills have succeeded. North Dakota, Arizona, and Minnesota have all attempted to get around in-app purchase rules by passing bills, but Apple and Google lobbied hard against them.
Apple’s chief compliance officer Kyle Andeer said that Arizona’s bill was a “government mandate that Apple give away the App Store,” and Apple’s Chief Privacy Engineer Erik Neuenschwander said that the North Dakota’s bill threatened to “destroy the iPhone as you know it.”
The Arizona bill actually passed in the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona House Committee, but the Arizona Senate pulled the bill before it could be voted on. Arizona State Representative Regina Cobb said at the time that Apple and Google “hired almost every lobbyist in town” to kill the bill.
Illinois might not have much luck with its bill given Apple’s efforts to fight against such legislation, but Apple has recently been required to allow alternate in-app payment systems in South Korea and the Netherlands. Apple is also facing federal legislation that would allow for alternate app stores and alternate payment methods, which the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hear soon.
In both the Netherlands and South Korea, Apple is still collecting a commission on transactions, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has made it clear that any alternate payment options in the U.S. would also see Apple implementing an alternate way of collecting fees.
“We would still have to come up with an alternate way of collecting our commission,” Cook said during the Epic v. Apple trial. Cook explained that Apple would need to find a way to track sales, invoice them, and chase developers for money. “It seems like a process that doesn’t need to exist,” he said.