Developers Can Now Formally Challenge Apple's App Store Rejections

Illustration for article titled Developers Can Now Formally Challenge Apples App Store Rejections
Image: Apple

Apple has followed through with its word to give developers a formal appeals process, which will allow them to fight back if Apple’s App Store reviewers find that an app violates its guidelines. The company originally announced it would be giving developers a way to challenge its decisions at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and as of today that submission process is now live.

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“To continue offering a safe place for users to download apps and helping you successfully develop apps that are secure, high-quality, reliable, and respectful of user privacy, we’ve updated the app review process as announced at WWDC20,” Apple announced.

Apple also said that developers will be able to suggest changes to the App Store guidelines.

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“Your feedback is vital to making the Apple development platform and App Store even better, so we’d love to hear your thoughts,” said Apple on its feedback page.

Apple said feedback will be anonymous, but the form is only open to “Account Holders and admins of a membership in the Apple Developer Program.” So if you do not have a developer account with Apple, you will not be able to submit feedback. A company like Epic Games, which recently had its developer account revoked for violating the App Store guidelines over in-app payments, won’t be able to submit feedback—although at this point, we’re all pretty aware of what Epic thinks of Apple’s App Store guidelines.

As noted by The Verge, these changes were first announced when Apple was in the middle of a public feud with Basecamp, creator of the new email service Hey, which costs $100 a year. Like Epic, Basecamp challenged Apple’s 30% commission on in-app purchases, and called out Apple for preventing it from releasing a new version of its Hey app on iOS unless it added an in-app purchase.

The two companies eventually reached a compromise: Basecamp could allow users to sign up via the iOS app and then have those users transition to a paid account on the web. Although according to current App Store guidelines, apps “must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase,” and “general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase.”

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Apple also tried to make WordPress add in-app purchases, but later reversed its decision.

What landed Epic Games in hot water with Apple is that it blatantly gave Fortnite players a way to directly pay Epic from within the app itself—and gave them a discount for doing so. However, since a player’s Fortnite account can be linked across multiple platforms, there’s nothing preventing someone from purchasing V-Bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency) on the web and then spending those V-Bucks in-game via the iOS or macOS app.

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Apple also recently rejected Facebook’s attempt to tell its users about the 30% cut it would take from the social media app’s new online events feature. According to Reuters, developers aren’t allowed to include “irrelevant” information in their apps.

“Now more than ever, we should have the option to help people understand where money they intend for small businesses actually goes. Unfortunately Apple rejected our transparency notice around their 30% tax but we are still working to make that information available inside the app experience,” Facebook said to Reuters in a statement.

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Facebook’s online events feature is intended to help small business owners whose livelihoods were affected by the covid-19 pandemic get back their revenue stream.

According to Apple, some of the most common reasons developers get their apps rejected include incomplete information, inaccurate screenshots, and bugs—but maybe no in-app purchases and telling people about the 30% cut should be added to that list.

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Got a tip regarding Apple’s new appeals process? Reach out via email, ProtonMail, DM for Signal, or SecureDrop.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

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DISCUSSION

“The two companies eventually reached a compromise: Basecamp could allow users to sign up via the iOS app and then have those users transition to a paid account on the web.”

I thought the issue was that Basecamp’s Hey app was for a paid-only service, and that Basecamp was advertising it as a free app/service in the App Store, which could lead to user confusion? I thought Apple basically said they couldn’t advertise it as free if there wasn’t an actual free tier of service?  And Basecamp adjusted their app to meet the App Store guidelines?

But I could totally be misremembering.