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Apple still plans to charge developers for sideloading apps in EU

European Union flags

If a new report is correct, Apple still plans on doing some form of iPhone app review and charge developers for sideloaded apps in the European Union, but the details aren't fully clear.

A report on Wednesday morning has laid out what may be Apple's plan to address the EU's requirements in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) mandating third-party app stores. Citing "people familiar with the company's plans", the Wall Street Journal says that software review will still take place, and there will be fees charged.

What is not spelled out in the report, are details about both the expected fees and how a software review would be executed. In the US, Apple is planning to levy a 27% fee on first-year subscriptions, and a 12% fee on following years if users are prompted through the app to buy a subscription outside of the App Store.

The EU's DMA doesn't appear to explicitly disallow fees for side loading and alternative app stores. What's not yet clear is how the EU will respond to Apple's filing that it must make on the matter, detailing the company's response to terms in the DMA.

The report also addresses what other big tech companies are preparing in response to Apple being forced to allow sideloaded apps. Meta is said to be considering a system that will allow users to download apps directly from Facebook advertisements.

Spotify's plan appears to be simpler. The music streamer will just provide apps on a download page on its website.

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) of the European Union is a series of regulations aimed at big tech "gatekeepers." Any large company with a monthly total of 45 million active users in Europe and at least 75 billion euros ($80 billion) in market capitalization is labeled a "gatekeeper."

Currently, there are six companies labeled as gatekeepers, including Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and TikTok's parent company, Bytedance.

These laws aim to ensure fair competition by restricting the priority a company can give its own first-party services. Gatekeepers are expected to comply with the regulations by March 7. Failure to comply with the DMA rules could trigger an EU investigation, which might lead to "behavioral or structural remedies."

According to the DMA, companies that act as gatekeepers must ensure fair competition by providing equal opportunities to their competitors' products and services. This means that Apple, for instance, would have to allow third-party app stores and side-loading apps on iPhone. Additionally, Apple would be obliged to permit developers to use third-party payment systems instead of mandatorily using the one provided by Apple.

In November, Apple drafted an appeal against the DMA, arguing that it should not be required to allow alternative app marketplaces on its devices.

The Cupertino-based tech giant later accused the European Union of incorrectly assessing how many app stores it had — clarifying that it has five app stores, not one.

In September, Apple received a temporary exemption from the DMA. The company claimed that its messaging service, iMessage, was not large enough to qualify as a gatekeeper service. EU regulators are now investigating whether the DMA applies to iMessage or not.