The vast majority of iOS and iPadOS apps have to pay a fee to Apple for transactions that take place on the App Store: either 30% or 15% of the total amount, depending on their size. But Patreon's CEO, Jack Conte, has confirmed in an interview with The Verge that the company does not pay any such fees to Apple.
What makes this revelation even stranger is Conte's admission that he has not made any special agreement with Apple to avoid the charges.
"I wish we had some special contract with Apple," he told The Verge. "We don't. We have to deal with the App Store policies and review process like anybody else."
In fact Conte doesn't seem sure why Patreon has escaped paying the fees, and can offer only the vaguest of explanations.
"Why don't we have to pay fees? I think it's because, for whatever reason, we're within Apple's guidelines, and we haven't had to pay fees," he said.
But the CEO goes on to explain that Patreon directs users to a web form when they sign up for membership; there is no in-app purchase button for subscribing. This is something that Apple's guidelines usually do not allow.
In the interview The Verge's Nilay Patel gently suggests that the reasoning behind the fee structure "sounds like something you should definitely know", and wonders if the company risks Apple at some future time either deciding or realising that Patreon should have been paying fees all this time. But Conte appears unconcerned, noting that most engagement happens on platforms other than the app.
The news comes after a long period of debate about the fees levied on the App Store, and Apple's position in the app market. Some critics have called it a monopoly - an accusation it strenuously denies - and there is a sense that the company wishes to appear less draconian in its treatment of developers. But fairness is important too, and any appearance of preferential treatment is likely to increase rather than defuse ill-feeling among software makers.
This article originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation and additional reporting by David Price.