U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers appears to be ready to approve a deal that Apple hammered out with iOS Developers in August
A new Courthouse report claims that a proposed $100 million settlement is headed for approval by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. "As it stands, it seems to me like a fair and good settlement," Gonzalez Rogers said Tuesday, telling attorneys over a videoconference that she anticipates giving it preliminary approval.
The agreement arises from an antitrust class action brought by a group of iOS developers in June 2019 over App Store fees and practices that they say puts them at a disadvantage while protecting Apple's monopoly for iOS app and in-app-product distribution services. Prior to approval, the deal was hammered out in late August.
The deal established a $100 million "Small Developer Assistance Fund" that will dispense sums from $250 to $30,000 for a class of about 67,000 developers who earned $1 million or less through the App Store between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021. It also locks in for three years a lower commission rate of 15% for in-app purchases that Apple announced earlier this year.
The settlement also "clarifies," in Apple parlance, that developers can contact consenting customers through email or other information gleaned from their apps to tell them about ways to make purchases outside the App Store. Developers will still be prohibited from alerting customers to alternate payment methods inside the app, and the downloading and installation of apps from outside the App Store will remain forbidden.
Representing Apple, Gibson Dunn partner Mark Perry said that after sharing some of its algorithms and methods with plaintiffs' counsel during the settlement talks, Apple agreed to issue an annual transparency report that should give developers some data on search queries and results, as well as Apple’s process for reviewing apps.
According to Perry, "We didn't spell everything out in the agreement largely because frankly, it’s the secret sauce, but we did give the plaintiffs some visibility into that. The transparency report will be year-over-year insight for the developer community into the operations, including search results. The goal here was really to provide more visibility. One of the things we heard from developers was the opacity of the process."
This seemed enough to satisfy the judge, at least at this stage. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers stated that "Before final approval, let's see what the transparency report is going to look like so we can evaluate the extent to which it provides meaningful information."