Dutch consumer watchdog to vet Apple dating app payment reforms

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Apple Inc. logo is seen in the lobby of New York City's flagship Apple store, U.S., January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch consumer watchdog said on Monday it would vet Apple's move to allow developers of dating apps to offer non-Apple payment options in the Netherlands, to see if the changes are enough to meet competition rules.

Late last month the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) ordered Apple to make changes for apps on offer in the Apple App Store in the Netherlands by Jan. 15 or face fines, after it found that the U.S. company had abused its market dominance by requiring dating app developers, including Tinder owner Match Group Inc, to exclusively use Apple's in-app payment system.

ACM said in a statement that Apple had informed it about how the company intends to comply and the watchdog will now assess whether Apple's response is adequate.

"As part of that assessment, ACM will sit down with dating-app providers, among other interested parties," it said.

The Coalition for App Fairness, which represents a group of app developers including Match Group and Epic Games, could not immediately be reached for comment. The group had applauded the ACM's December decision.

Apple's practice of requiring developers to use its system and pay commissions of 15-30% on digital goods purchases has come under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world. However, the Dutch order and Apple's response cover only the Netherlands and only dating apps.

In a post on its developers' blog, Apple said that while it is appealing the ACM decision, it would comply by introducing two new options "exclusively applicable to dating apps on the Netherlands App Store, that provide additional payment processing options for users".

However, a spokesperson for the company said that Apple would still require some commission from developers on transactions that make use of the new options.

They could not specify how much those commissions will be or how Apple will enforce commissions for payments that don't flow through its systems.

In Apple's blog post it noted that developers were not required to use the alternative options, and warned that Apple would not be able to help with safety or refunds of payments that take place outside its systems because it will "not be directly aware of them".

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Susan Fenton)

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