A Look At The App Store’s New Guidelines
Isadora Teich wrote this article
The Apple Store is still the main global marketplace for app developers and users. As such, it is especially important that developers and businesses understand their rules if they want their apps to be widely available.
Lately, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Apple, specifically around how they operate the Apple Store.
They have had a long legal battle with the company behind the smash-hit game Fortnite. They are also in some trouble with several international governments, who have accused them of anti-competitive practices.
Also, in general, there have been widespread reports of scammers using all kinds of tactics to take more than $400 million from people via shady apps. The Washington Post even found that 2% of their top-grossing apps are fraudulent.
Let’s take a look at which problems Apple has addressed, and how they have gone about it in their new update.
Apple Takes on Scammers
If you want to see an in-depth look at every change, check it out here. We are going to take a look at some of the biggest and most dramatic updates.
Considering fleeceware apps have become an incredibly aggressive global problem, it makes sense that Apple would want to find ways to protect users.
In the 5.6 Developer Code of Conduct, they warned devs not to prey on users or try to rip them off. In the new code, 5.6.2, they have included clear warnings about how they will terminate the accounts of devs whose apps operate fraudulently. However, accounts can be restored if creators submit an improvement plan to Apple that gets accepted.
Repeated manipulative or misleading behavior or other fraudulent conduct will lead to your removal from the Apple Developer Program.
Your Developer Program account will be terminated if you engage in activities or actions that are not in accordance with the Developer Code of Conduct. To restore your account, you may provide a written statement detailing the improvements you plan to make. If your plan is approved by Apple and we confirm the changes have been made, your account may be restored.
Brand New Sections of the Developer Code of Conduct
There are three brand new sections concerning developer honesty in both their offerings and how they represent those offerings.
Section 5.6.2 Developer Identity demands that developers provide accurate and up-to-date information about themselves and their offerings. Apple wants to make sure that consumers understand exactly who they are downloading apps from and knows how to reach them with problems.
Section 5.6.3 Discovery Fraud counters another widespread problem.
If you have never downloaded a fleeceware or other scam app yourself, you might be wondering how this has become such a global issue. After all, can’t people just read the online reviews, see that they are poor, and move on?
It turns out that many less reputable apps have been manipulating charts and using fake reviews and ratings and misleading advertising to trick people.
So, even if people try to do their research, they may only find information manipulated by these companies. In one famous case, a fraudulent crypto wallet app pretending to be a reputable app by using their logo and name scammed a user out of their life savings.
That is why Apple is banning such practices.
Concerning App Quality
Section 5.6.4 App Quality underlines the importance of trying to maintain high-quality offerings in the app store.
If your app does not meet quality standards it could be removed. However, what does Apple exactly mean by this? What red flags could alert them to an app being of low quality?
This includes things like a high number of consumers reporting an app to Apple, a lot of bad reviews, and a high rate of refund requests.
Bounty Hunting Via The Apple Store Is Now Against Developer Guidelines
As well as cracking down on digital scammers, Apple’s new rules are clearly meant to crack down on apps that could enable or inspire real-world crime or interference with law enforcement.
Section 1.7 seems to be a direct response to the recent actions of Citizen App CEO Andrew Frame, who used his crime watch app to offer a $30,000 bounty for the capture of an innocent person.
Section 1.7 Reporting Criminal Activity reads:
Apps for reporting alleged criminal activity must involve local law enforcement, and can only be offered in countries where such involvement is active.
Restrictions On Apps In Regulated Fields
For years, the Apple Store’s relationship with apps that relate to cannabis has been somewhat touch and go. Developers have been complaining that Apple’s rules are somewhat vague and inconsistently applied in general.
However, in this case, specifically, the confusion is more understandable.
Depending on where you are in the world, the legal penalties surrounding it vary a lot. In some countries, cannabis-related charges can result in the death penalty. Even within the US itself, laws vary greatly between states and are currently in flux.
Now, developers have a more concrete answer about this industry, as well as all other highly regulated fields.
Essentially, highly regulated fields that require sensitive user information can only be submitted by legal entities that provide these services, and not individual developers. This includes industries like legal cannabis, banking, air travel, and healthcare.
Apple Responds To Developer Complaints
Many developers have complained that Apple’s fees are extortionate, confusing, and unevenly applied.
Before when Apple said that it will only take cuts of digital purchases, and exclude physical ones, many developers were not sure what that meant. People were unsure how this would apply to digital or physical gift cards. Apple has cleared that up.
Digital gift cards, certificates, vouchers, and coupons which can be redeemed for digital goods or services can only be sold in your app using in-app purchase. Physical gift cards that are sold within an app and then mailed to customers may use payment methods other than in-app purchase.
If gift cards are digital, they must go through the App store and pay the Apple Tax. However, if a physical gift card is mailed to a consumer, it can go through another platform.
Chances For Redemption
Even if your app gets rejected or removed by Apple, you do have options when it comes to appealing. Developers have the option to explain why they feel an app rejection was wrong when filing an appeal.
As many developers have complained about unfair treatment, this may be part of an attempt to operate more equitably. Also, developers now have the option to report apps they believe to be operating fraudulently.
In addition, two updates have been made to the App Review contact form.
If you appeal an app rejection, you can now specify if you believe your app was rejected due to unfair treatment (including political or other bias). And you can now report an app if you believe it presents a trust or safety concern, or is in violation of the App Store Review Guidelines.
Considering the history of unscrupulous developers bending and breaking store rules, is it possible that some developers might abuse the report function to report competition?
Also, even with new rules, how much will Apple actually respond to the concerns of developers? A lot remains to be seen.
Ultimately, a lot of Apple’s updates seem to reflect the concerns of users and developers to a degree.
Of course, if they want their store to remain a global platform that is trusted by consumers and developers, there are some big issues to fix. These include the prevalence of scam apps and a strained relationship with developers.
As their store contains all sorts of apps that can be applied to almost every facet of life, it is also important that these apps operate in accordance with the law and in the interest of the safety of users.
Do you think this is a step in the right direction for Apple? Comment below.
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