Apple might have to ban Tiktok before President Biden does — report reveals app is dodging Apple's App Store payment rules

TikTok logo on a blue background on an iPhone
(Image credit: Getty Images / NurPhoto)

The U.S. government is prepared to ban Tiktok in the country if parent company ByteDance doesn’t sell up in the next nine months. Now, a new report reveals that Apple might beat everyone to the punch, following the revelation TikTok is actually breaking Apple’s notorious App Store commission rules. 

According to screenshots shared on X by developer David Tesler, “TikTok might get banned from the app store next week.” In a series of posts, he reveals how TikTok appears to be circumventing Apple’s App Store commissions by directing users to purchase coins from its website, rather than using in-app purchases as demanded by Apple’s rules. This is the exact business model that got Fortnite booted from the App Store in 2020 as part of a publicity stunt run by Epic Games in the run-up to its massive lawsuit against Cupertino. 

According to Tesler, if you visit TikTok’s ‘Recharge’ screen where you can buy coins, trying to purchase coins in-app ultimately leads to an embedded web view that lets users complete their purchase, in direct contravention of Apple’s rules. It’s unclear how long this feature has existed, but Tesler notes that “This feature isn’t shown for all users in TikTok and appears to only be shown to a select group of users,” the example he used being an account that had previously purchased “a large amount of coins.”

TikTok in hot water 

As per Tesler, users are directed to pay for coins using Apple Pay, CC, or PayPal, all of which are not sanctioned by Apple as payment methods for digital goods in the U.S. Currently, Apple’s App Store in the U.S. only allows payments made by way of Apple’s in-app payments method, which charges developers up to 30% commission on purchases. It’s a highly contentious business model at the heart of changes being made to the iPhone and iOS 17, and latterly the iPad, in the EU. Apple must now let developers in the EU offer alternative app marketplaces and web distribution (sideloading), as well as alternative payment processing. 

As noted by TechCrunch, some apps in the App Store are entitled to offer users a link to their website from within an app, but these are really only “reader” apps such as Netflix, and such apps are precluded from also offering in-app payments. As such, it seems TikTok is in contravention of Apple’s rules, but what happens next is anyone’s guess. Neither Apple nor TikTok were immediately available for comment. 

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9