TikTok app

In 2020, Apple banned the popular video game Fortnite from the App Store. The game’s publisher, Epic Games, attempted to get around paying Apple its 30 percent commission for in-app purchases of the game’s V-Bucks currency. In response to Fortnite’s workaround that sent users outside of the App Store to make a purchase, Apple kicked the game out of the App Store.

Fast forward to 2024 and it looks like TikTok has now deployed a similar tactic in its iOS app. The question now though: is TikTok breaking Apple’s rules?

As first reported by TechCrunch, developer David Tesler shared screenshots on X on Tuesday showing that TikTok was urging users to purchase coins through the app, but not via Apple’s in-app store purchase system which would provide the iPhone-maker with a 30 percent commission. These screenshots show that TikTok is explicitly asking its users to make a purchase via its website, which it then sends users to within the app so that they can buy coins.

“Try recharging on tiktok.com,” reads the TikTok app pop-up prompt shown in the screenshot. “You can save the service fee and get access to popular payment methods.”

TikTok users purchase these coins in order to send tips to their favorite creators.

When a user selects a coin purchase option, TikTok informs users that making this purchase through the website will enable them to save around 25 percent due to a “lower third-party service fee.” Of course, TikTok means it’s able to pass on the savings it makes to consumers due to not having to share 30 percent of its revenue with Apple.

Now, as previously mentioned, Fortnite was famously banned years ago from the App Store due to similar tactics from Epic Games. However, numerous lawsuits and policy changes over Apple’s App Store rules have occurred between the nearly 4 years since Fortnite was given the boot. Since then, Apple has softened its rules pertaining to apps sending users to alternative payment methods.

As TechCrunch points out, certain “reader” apps can provide digital products without having to go through Apple’s in-app purchase system with approval from Apple. However, if an app does this, it cannot also provide in-store purchases through Apple too. TikTok is currently still doing the latter.

Furthermore, as 9to5Mac reports, Apple has another fairly new policy which allows such external linking to alternative payment systems. However, this program still provides a commission to Apple, albeit, with a commission that drops from 30 percent to 27 percent for an app like TikTok — a savings on commissions for TikTok, if this is indeed what it’s doing, but not a very impressive one.

Apple and TikTok did not offer any statement on this, but Mashable will update this piece if we hear back.

As Tesler explained, TikTok’s prompt circumventing in-app purchases is not currently showing for all users. Is this a test from TikTok? Did it get permission from Apple? Or do we have another Fortnite situation on our hands? For now, it’s unclear exactly what’s going on here.

But, one thing is surely happening: TikTok is, in at least some cases, avoiding Apple’s 30 percent commission fees.