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Apple could face an unspecified fine in Russia over in-app payments

A Russian watchdog is now pursuing a new antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store. It comes after the iPhone maker failed to implement anti-steering rules that would permit developers to inform users of alternative purchase options for in-app payments.

A photograph showing an aerial view oof the Apple Park headquarters

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Russia opens an antitrust case against Apple over in-app payments
  • The company previously agreed to implement anti-steering rules
  • But Apple has failed to meet a deadline, prompting Russia to act

Russia starts an antitrust investigation into Apple App Store

In August 2021, a federal judge ruled Apple must let app makers send their users to other payment systems. Apple responded by confirming that it would change the steering rule so that developers could tell their customers about alternative payment methods for in-app transactions. Basically, alternative payments bypass Apple’s cut.

Intentionally or not, however, Apple has failed to meet a deadline to implement the changes, promoting Russia’s watchdog called Roskomnadzor to take action. The anti-monopoly regulator’s confirmed it’s probing Apple over alternative App Store payments, according to a report published by Reuters.

Apple faced pushback over its App Store rules in the United States last month when a federal judge issued a ruling forcing the company to allow developers to send their users to other payment systems.

The US tech giant could face a fine based on its revenue in Russia if found guilty of a breach, the regulator said. It did not indicate the size of any potential fine. The company was earlier issued with a warning over the issue and given a Sept. 30 deadline to “stop abuse on the market”.

Apple is also facing other mounting issues in the 145 million people market.

Apple’s problems in Russia

A few years back, Moscow-based law firms representing a number of iPhone owners dragged Apple to court over the throttling debacle. And in 2021, Russia hit Apple with a $12 million fine because its App Store violated the country’s anti-monopoly rules.

Also, the country’s new protectionist law threatens to drive Apple TV+ out of the market. In response, Apple is now developing Russian-language shows for its video service.

Apple was also forced to make a change to the iOS setup process for Russian customers.

Anti-steering rules

Every time you buy something in an app like a virtual item for a game or a subscription to a piece of content, Apple keeps between 15-30 percent to itself, while the rest goes to the developer. That fee is challenged in courts around the world. As we mentioned before, Apple used to forbid developers from putting buttons in their apps that would take visitors to an external website for alternative payment options.

Although Apple has agreed to implement anti-steering changes to avoid clashing with regulators, no one really knows how the new system will look and feel.

Apple has yet to update developer documentation with any anti-steering rules.

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