Aug 14, 2020 - Technology

Facebook goes after Apple

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook is seeking to force a face-off with Apple over its 30% in-app purchase commission fee, which Facebook suggests hurts small businesses struggling to get by during the pandemic.

The big picture: Facebook has never publicly gone after Apple, a key strategic partner, this aggressively. Both companies face antitrust scrutiny, which in Apple's case has centered on the very fee structure Facebook is now attacking.

  • Between the lines: Facebook is trying to position itself as friendlier to small businesses than Apple, which also faces a lawsuit from Fortnite maker Epic Games over its commission and in-app payment restrictions.

What's happening: Facebook said Friday that it will launch "Paid Online Events" for small businesses in 20 countries around the world to charge Facebook users to attend their classes, instructions and other events.

  • The feature could be useful for any small business or individual offering a service, such a preacher, musician, yoga teacher or cooking instructor.
  • Facebook asked Apple to either waive its 30% cut or let Facebook go around it and process event payments via Facebook Pay, in either case letting event hosts keep all the revenue they generate. Apple declined, according to Facebook.
  • "Really what we're pushing on right now is to make sure all tech companies who can afford to do so join us in supporting small businesses," Fidji Simo, head of Facebook App, said on a press call Friday.

Of note: Hosts will be able to collect the full ticket price from Facebook users who attend their online events via the web or Android. Facebook says it is using its own payment system on Android and letting developers keep all the money.

The bottom line: Although this is Facebook's biggest assault on Apple yet, the two companies have sparred before.

  • Apple spent months rejecting iterations of Facebook's new gaming app before finally allowing it to publish a watered-down version to the App Store last week that only lets users stream and discuss games, not play them in-app.
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