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Apple makes one other concession to the App Retailer charges

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Tim Cook, Apple CEO, keynote speaker at Apple's annual global developer conference on June 13, 2016 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California.

Gabrielle Lurie | AFP | Getty Images

Apple said Monday that companies that offer digital courses or virtual events through iPhone apps won't need to use in-app purchases on Apple's App Store until June 2021 in order to charge their customers directly without Apple's 30% commission can.

The expansion will help businesses by giving them more time to hold paid digital events than they do in person during the Covid-19 pandemic at no additional charge.

"Although apps are required to deliver paid online group event experiences (one-to-few and one-to-many real-time experiences) through in-app purchase as per App Store Review Policy 3.1.1, we are temporarily holding this requirement postponed." an original deadline of December 2020, "Apple wrote on its developer blog." In order to have additional time to develop in-app purchase solutions, this deadline has been extended to June 30, 2021. "

An Apple spokesman had no comment beyond Monday's announcement.

The move is Apple's latest olive branch to app store critics who believe the iPhone giant's control of the platform and fees are anticompetitive. Apple also announced earlier this month that it plans to cut its commission to 15% for app developers making less than $ 1 million on Apple's platforms in 2021.

Apple originally waived the in-app purchase requirement for group classes and events in September after Facebook rolled out a paid events feature and tried to include a copy in its apps to warn that it would cut transactions for paid events to Apple would go. At this point, however, Apple only suspended its fees until December. Monday's announcement extended it for another six months.

Apple requires iPhone apps to use payment processing on Apple's App Store, which accounts for 30% of total payments and is an antitrust focus of policymakers around the world. However, personal goods such as ordering a ride through Uber or purchasing a product from an online retailer are not required to use Payments on the App Store.

In September Apple made it clear that one-to-one tuition can be billed directly via an iPhone app. However, virtual courses in which an instructor or a group works with several people must use the payments in the App Store.

The New York Times reported in July that some app makers like Airbnb and ClassPass were shifting their business models to more digital classes as personal experiences were negatively impacted by the pandemic, and Apple had asked them to use in-app purchases which they made entitled to 30% of the sale.

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, was interviewed at a July hearing in July by House Justice Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler about the company's policies on virtual classes and events.

"The pandemic is a tragedy that is hurting Americans and many people around the world, and we would never take advantage of it," Cook said. "I think the cases you are talking about are cases where something has switched to a digital service that technically has to go through our commission model."

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Katherine Clark