TikTok May Be Breaking App Store Rules by Avoiding Commissions on Tips

TikTok appears to be quietly showing some users an option to purchase "coins" on the web instead of through in-app purchases, circumventing the commission that Apple receives on digital purchases.

tiktok logo
As noted by David Tesler (via TechCrunch) TikTok has been offering a limited number of TikTok app users an option to purchase coins on TikTok.com instead of in the app. "Try recharging on tiktok.com to avoid in-app service fees," reads the text. "You can save the service fee and get access to popular payment methods."

Following through and opting to purchase from TikTok.com brings up an interface for using payment options such as PayPal or a credit/debit card. "Save around 25% with a lower third-party service fee," the app suggests. The purchase workflow can be completed entirely in the TikTok app with no requirement to use in-app purchase.

TikTok's coins are used as a way for users to provide "Gifts" to creators. Users pay real money for a certain number of coins, and those coins are used for little gift emoji that can be provided to creators. TikTok says that gifts are used to determine the number of "diamonds" awarded to content creators, and diamonds can be redeemed for money. A TikTok coin is worth about half a diamond, and 100 diamonds is worth 50 cents, so TikTok is collecting quite a bit of money during the conversion.

Apple requires in-app purchase to be used for digital goods and services, and TikTok's "coins" presumably count as a digital good. If TikTok is indeed offering customers a way to purchase coins without in-app purchase as suggested by the screenshots from Tesler, then TikTok is breaking Apple's App Store rules.

TikTok coins would likely be considered tips, and Apple has forced other major social networks like Facebook to use in-app purchase for a creator tipping feature. What TikTok is doing is actually similar to the direct purchase options that Epic Games added to the Fortnite app back in 2020, a move that ultimately led to the banning of the Fortnite app and a multi-year legal battle.

Most TikTok users are only able to purchase coins through the in-app purchase interface, and the option to purchase direct from TikTok with a credit or debit card is allegedly a feature showing up only for a small number of users. The option is perhaps being limited to those who have spent a lot of money on coins in the past.

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Top Rated Comments

techcboy Avatar
4 weeks ago

Lol boo-hoo… poor Apple not ripping off customers trying to tip people they find entertaining
Wow you really don’t understand the process do you? Apple isn’t ripping off customers trying to tip. The fee comes out of TikTok’s cut of the money and covers things like the App Stores back end systems and servers, promo’s, staff handling TikToks refunds and complaints via the App Store plus all the work that goes in to maintaining the API’s that TikTok is using. This isn’t Apple just being greedy, while they could lower them it’s business after all and running an App Store can’t be cheap when you continually work on upgrading systems, API’s and more.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iPay Avatar
4 weeks ago
They are breaking the most important Apple rule: thou shalt pay the tax.
Even Jesus, Son of God and God itself, paid the tax (by Matthew 17:24-25 ('https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew 17:24-27&version=NCV')).
There can only be one punishment: expelled from the Walled Garden.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
purplerainpurplerain Avatar
4 weeks ago
It’s called TikTok to remind you your time is being wasted on there. Now your money too.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dumastudetto Avatar
4 weeks ago
They are literally stealing from Apple.

Ban them.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
RedGala Avatar
4 weeks ago

They are literally stealing from Apple.

Ban them.
Lol boo-hoo… poor Apple not ripping off customers trying to tip people they find entertaining
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sw1tcher Avatar
4 weeks ago

They are literally stealing from Apple.

Ban them.
"stealing" ? Right. ;)

Solution: TikTok should just send a stack of coins to the people buying the coins through the app. Since it'd be considered a physical item, no fees for Apple. Include a scratcher card with code to convert those physical coins into digital coins on the TikTok app for those who want to do so.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)