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Apple announces new settlement with Japan allowing developers to link to external websites  

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Image Credits: Kiichiro Sato / AP

Apple has reached a settlement with the Japanese regulator to allow developers of “reader” apps to link to their own websites for users to manage their accounts. The change goes to effect in early 2022.

Apple has been facing scrutiny in multiple markets, including the US and South Korea, over how it mandates its own payment systems for developers, with critics accusing it of anti-competitive practices.

In this latest development, the settlement in Japan, from the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), will mandate Apple to make a change its polices on the reader apps so that users of purchase content. Reader apps include not just apps for reading, but any app that accesses “purchased” or subscribed media in the cloud for app users to consume. It covers digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video and the list includes the likes of Netflix, Spotify, Audible and Dropbox.

Before the change goes into effect next year, Apple will continue to update its guidelines and review process for users of readers apps, according to its statement.

Apple will also apply this change globally to all reader apps on the store.

“We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up an manage their apps and service, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust,” Phill Schiller, who oversees the App Stores at Apple.

Apple seems to be taking the scrutiny it’s facing among lawmakers, developers and the public on board. Last week, it announced several updates that allow developers more flexibility for their customers, and the company also launched a News Partner Program to support local journalist.

Although developers and others have been crying foul for years over restrictive app store practices, Apple has long maintained that it puts its policies in place for the protection of consumers and to create more consistent user experiences.

Be that as it may, as technology, payment systems, and consumer habits have evolved, those criticisms have only grown louder. In that regard, Asia and the US are not the only markets where lawmakers are finally starting to take more action around the issue. In Australia, the Competitions and Consumer Commission is also considering regulations around digital payment systems – rules that would impact not just Apple, but also other dominant players like Google and WeChat.

And just this week, South Korea became the first country to curb Apple and Google from imposting their own payment system on in-app purchases.

Apple has more than 30 million registered developers building iOS apps.

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