TikTok appears to be dodging App Store commissions in epic fashion

TikTok appears to be investigating App Store rules that require it to pay an “Apple tax” on in-app purchases. according to Sendit app co-founder David Teslersome TikTok users are directed to purchase TikTok Coins — digital tokens used to tip creators during live streams — on the company's website via an in-app link, effectively evading the 30 percent commission Apple takes on digital purchases.

Screenshots obtained by Tesler show at least two instances where iOS users are encouraged to “recharge” their TikTok coins on TikTok.com to explicitly “avoid in-app service fees.” Clicking on the “Try Now” link opens these notifications Embedded web view Users can access payment options such as Apple Pay, PayPal, or credit/debit cards to bypass App Store fees. A message on this page informs users that they can save “about 25 percent with lower third-party service fees” compared to purchasing coins in the TikTok app.

The alternative payment feature is only being offered to a select group of TikTok users, according to Tesler, noting that the account that provided the screenshots had previously purchased a large amount of coins. It's unclear how many users were offered in-app web links, though the purchase options may indicate that TikTok is targeting users who typically purchase large amounts of TikTok coins. Coin options range from packs of 70 (priced at 74 cents) to custom quantities that state “Support Large Quantity.”

These promotional messages aren't entirely accurate, even if only a few TikTok users see them.
Photo: TikTok/ the edge

TikTok support page It did not mention the ability to purchase TikTok coins via its website, listing only the App Store and Google Play as locations where coins could be purchased. Neither TikTok nor Apple have responded to our request for comment at this time.

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TikTok is likely violating Apple App Store rules with this feature. Apple began allowing specific services to include website links within the app back in 2022, though this was limited to “reader” apps like Kindle, Netflix, and Spotify, and could only be used for things like managing or creating an account. As he pointed out TechCrunch-Only applications that no Offering in-app purchases (which TikTok certainly does) is allowed with this External link entitlement.

These violations seem like something Apple will quickly (and usually aggressively) seek to correct, though it doesn't appear the company has taken any action yet. Apple currently blocks Spotify from implementing similar in-app web links in the European Union despite fining it about $2 billion over its App Store practices. TikTok's massive user base — recently reported at more than 1 billion monthly active global users — also makes it difficult to simply kick it from the App Store, with BloombergMark Gorman Claiming that “the only way Apple would take down TikTok over this is if it wanted to destroy itself.”

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