Apple removes Iranian apps from App Store, cites U.S. sanctions

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2017
Apple over the past few weeks has removed a number of popular Iranian apps from various international iOS App Stores, saying the move is in line with U.S. sanctions against the country.




Due to American sanctions on Iran, Apple does not sell hardware or distribute software in the Persian Gulf republic. However, the company has not actively inhibited Iranian app developers from creating and distributing apps through official App Stores operated in other countries.

That is changing, according to a report from The New York Times that claims Apple is "moving aggressively" to shut down Iranian apps. On Thursday, for example, Apple pulled popular ride-hailing app Snapp from its App Stores, a decision that follows the removal of apps for food delivery, shopping and other services, the report said.

Apple recently informed Iranian developers affected by the crackdown that, "Under the U.S. sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute or do business with apps or developers connected to certain U.S. embargoed countries."

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr confirmed the message as authentic, but declined to further elaborate on the issue.

Though Iranians do not have direct access to iPhones and iPads, many young and wealthy consumers purchase Apple products smuggled into the country. Indeed, black market iPhone trading became such a significant problem that Iran's government reportedly mulled options to allow import of the popular smartphone.

The takedown appears to be an expansion of efforts to restrict Iranian titles that offer in-app transactions. In January, Apple pulled a number of Iran-based iOS apps from the App Store, including online e-commerce service Digikala, citing noncompliance with Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations.

Since Apple takes a cut of all App Store purchases, sales from Iranian apps generate revenue and are thus in violation of U.S. law.

Apple first notified Iranian developers affected by the recent takedown in February, the report said. In response, many app makers, including Snapp, transitioned to Iranian online payments system Shaparak, cash or other forms of payment. The move could have prompted Apple's app exodus.

App makers impacted by Apple's decision, like Mahdi Taghizadeh, founder of online delivery service DelionFoods, protested Apple's decision on Twitter. Iran's telecommunications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, also took to Twitter to voice his concern over the app removal.

"11 percent of the cellphone market in Iran belongs to Apple," Azari Jahromi said. "Respecting customer rights is a principle today that Apple hasn't abided by. We will legally pursue the omission of apps."

The minister's statements are of particular interest considering Twitter is a banned service in Iran.

Apple's recent Iranian app removal follows a crackdown on virtual private network (VPN) apps being marketed on the Chinese iOS App Store. In July, the Cupertino tech giant pulled a number of VPN apps from the App Store in observance of government regulations.

Responding to criticism, CEO Tim Cook explained that Chinese regulators recently renewed efforts to enforce existing policy dating back to 2015. The country requires VPN operators to obtain a license, suggesting a bulk of the apps culled from the App Store were likely marketed by developers lacking such credentials.

"We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business," Cook said during an investor conference call in August. "And we strongly believe that participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers is in the best interest of the folks there and in other countries as well. So we believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    jdwjdw Posts: 586member
    "Since Apple takes a cut of all App Store purchases, sales from Iranian apps generate revenue and are thus in violation of U.S. law. "

    If the above statement is true, then clearly Apple is not opposed to the sanctions against IRAN because it Apple was opposed, they would need only offer the apps FOR FREE to circumvent that law, until such a time as the sections are lifted.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    carnegiecarnegie Posts: 362member
    Really, Apple, you can sell an incredibly advanced, fancy piece of electronic hardware there that doesn't violate sanctions, but an innocuous app can't be sold because it apparently does?

    Moreover, what happened to the principle of "we obey the laws on the country in which we operate?" Is it just an excuse that always seems to be trotted out in the process of acceding to, say, Chinese government requests or selling products and services some place like Saudi Arabia whose social policies miltitate against everything the company says it stands for?!
    What hardware does Apple sell in Iran?

    Also, how is this action contrary to the claim that Apple obeys the laws in the countries it operates in? It is, apparently, trying to comply with the laws of the United States.
    Rayz2016
  • Reply 3 of 19
    carnegie said:
    Really, Apple, you can sell an incredibly advanced, fancy piece of electronic hardware there that doesn't violate sanctions, but an innocuous app can't be sold because it apparently does?

    Moreover, what happened to the principle of "we obey the laws on the country in which we operate?" Is it just an excuse that always seems to be trotted out in the process of acceding to, say, Chinese government requests or selling products and services some place like Saudi Arabia whose social policies miltitate against everything the company says it stands for?!
    What hardware does Apple sell in Iran?

    Also, how is this action contrary to the claim that Apple obeys the laws in the countries it operates in? It is, apparently, trying to comply with the laws of the United States.
    Ah, my bad. I didn't read the story carefully enough. I assumed that iPhones were sold in Iran!

    That brings up an additional, side question: does Iran not have smartphones at all? If it does, are they all smuggled in? If it's legally sold there, I wonder who sells them, and how the sanctions regime affects them. 
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 4 of 19
    carnegie said:
    Really, Apple, you can sell an incredibly advanced, fancy piece of electronic hardware there that doesn't violate sanctions, but an innocuous app can't be sold because it apparently does?

    Moreover, what happened to the principle of "we obey the laws on the country in which we operate?" Is it just an excuse that always seems to be trotted out in the process of acceding to, say, Chinese government requests or selling products and services some place like Saudi Arabia whose social policies miltitate against everything the company says it stands for?!
    What hardware does Apple sell in Iran?

    Also, how is this action contrary to the claim that Apple obeys the laws in the countries it operates in? It is, apparently, trying to comply with the laws of the United States.
    Ah, my bad. I didn't read the story carefully enough. I assumed that iPhones were sold in Iran!

    That brings up an additional, side question: does Iran not have smartphones at all? If it does, are they all smuggled in? If it's legally sold there, I wonder who sells them, and how the sanctions regime affects them. 
    Yes, they have smartphones.
    A gray market exists for US products resold through (several) other countries that trade with Iran. Probably through China or UAE.
    The "cloak and dagger" style smuggling does happen, but there are enough US trading partners with legal loopholes or lax enforcement of sanctions that stuff finds a way into the country.
  • Reply 5 of 19
    adm1adm1 Posts: 763member
    "Though Iranians do not have direct access to iPhones and iPads, many young and wealthy consumers purchase Apple products smuggled into the country. Indeed, black market iPhone trading became such a significant problem "

    Surely it's not ILLEGAL to own or buy an iPhone in Iran, so it's hardly "smuggling" and "black market", it's not weapons or drugs. I'm sure any Iranian can buy an iPhone or iPad on a trip to the US or Europe etc. and not be arrested for taking it back into the country. They could even buy a few and pay any applicable taxes upon import and I can't see any legal issue with that.
  • Reply 6 of 19
    mike54mike54 Posts: 184member
    If Apple is only obeying US law and if it doesn't it gets punished - well I guess they have to.
    However, I'm against all this economic warfare from the worlds largest economy.
    Governments of other countries really need to encourage moves to decrease the over-reliance on US corporations.

  • Reply 7 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,472member
    Sidenote: Wasn't it certain Iranian software discovered attacking Macs recently?   
  • Reply 8 of 19
    wigbywigby Posts: 667member
    carnegie said:
    Really, Apple, you can sell an incredibly advanced, fancy piece of electronic hardware there that doesn't violate sanctions, but an innocuous app can't be sold because it apparently does?

    Moreover, what happened to the principle of "we obey the laws on the country in which we operate?" Is it just an excuse that always seems to be trotted out in the process of acceding to, say, Chinese government requests or selling products and services some place like Saudi Arabia whose social policies miltitate against everything the company says it stands for?!
    What hardware does Apple sell in Iran?

    Also, how is this action contrary to the claim that Apple obeys the laws in the countries it operates in? It is, apparently, trying to comply with the laws of the United States.
    Ah, my bad. I didn't read the story carefully enough. I assumed that iPhones were sold in Iran!

    That brings up an additional, side question: does Iran not have smartphones at all? If it does, are they all smuggled in? If it's legally sold there, I wonder who sells them, and how the sanctions regime affects them. 
    Did you read the story more carefully after reading it again before not reading it all the first time? Black market phones are in Iran because there are not Apple retailers based in Iran.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 209member
    Apple needs to establish separate international entities not limited by US sanctions. 

    The problem, of course, is war and destruction is the purpose behind politicians and governments. Aside from the hate groups, most people can get along quite nicely and be of service to each other. 


  • Reply 10 of 19
    mike54 said:
    If Apple is only obeying US law and if it doesn't it gets punished - well I guess they have to.
    However, I'm against all this economic warfare from the worlds largest economy.
    Governments of other countries really need to encourage moves to decrease the over-reliance on US corporations.

    What type of warfare should the USA engage?
  • Reply 11 of 19
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,075member
    The few Iranians I know hate what happened to their country with the religious extremists. What a shame.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,163member
    jdw said:
    "Since Apple takes a cut of all App Store purchases, sales from Iranian apps generate revenue and are thus in violation of U.S. law. "

    If the above statement is true, then clearly Apple is not opposed to the sanctions against IRAN because it Apple was opposed, they would need only offer the apps FOR FREE to circumvent that law, until such a time as the sections are lifted.

    but its not Apple's call whether to charge or not. that lies in the developer. And there are also laws about hosting the apps, disturbing them etc. So they can't be in the Apple run store or on the Apple servers
  • Reply 13 of 19
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,163member

    adm1 said:


    Surely it's not ILLEGAL to own or buy an iPhone in Iran, so it's hardly "smuggling" and "black market", it's not weapons or drugs. I'm sure any Iranian can buy an iPhone or iPad on a trip to the US or Europe etc. and not be arrested for taking it back into the country. They could even buy a few and pay any applicable taxes upon import and I can't see any legal issue with that.
    if you are bringing in something that is not legally permitted then you are smuggling. just happens that the laws are from the source country not the target but it is still smuggling
  • Reply 14 of 19
    wigby said:
    Did you read the story more carefully after reading it again before not reading it all the first time? Black market phones are in Iran because there are not Apple retailers based in Iran.
    The same question applies to you re. my post, smartass.

    I was asking about non-Apple non-smuggled phones. 
  • Reply 15 of 19
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,571member

    adm1 said:


    Surely it's not ILLEGAL to own or buy an iPhone in Iran, so it's hardly "smuggling" and "black market", it's not weapons or drugs. I'm sure any Iranian can buy an iPhone or iPad on a trip to the US or Europe etc. and not be arrested for taking it back into the country. They could even buy a few and pay any applicable taxes upon import and I can't see any legal issue with that.
    if you are bringing in something that is not legally permitted then you are smuggling. just happens that the laws are from the source country not the target but it is still smuggling
    The problem is that the phones are indeed being smuggled in. The smugglers are obtaining them on the black market in other countries. Since there is no legitimate wholesale source or receipt for the phones, the smugglers cannot risk trying to pay the import duty, hence they smuggle them in. From what I have read, in order to curb this illegal activity the Iran government has, since June of last year, made it illegal to even have an iPhone and they have begun confiscating them from end users.  There are apparently some exceptions where the iPhone must be specifically registered through Apple for use in Iran, which I think covers the legal purchase of a personal phone outside of the country and bringing it in as declared property and paying the duty.

    Edit: just read that the Iran government has reversed that ruling and now allows nine Iran retailers to legally import Apple products. Apparently the earlier law had the exact opposite effect than intended. The ban simply increased the price of the iPhones already in the country, which in turn resulted in even more smuggling.
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 16 of 19
    normmnormm Posts: 512member
    jdw said:
    "Since Apple takes a cut of all App Store purchases, sales from Iranian apps generate revenue and are thus in violation of U.S. law. "

    If the above statement is true, then clearly Apple is not opposed to the sanctions against IRAN because it Apple was opposed, they would need only offer the apps FOR FREE to circumvent that law, until such a time as the sections are lifted.
    That's a good point.  Maybe Apple should allow free apps with no in-app purchases or use of Apple Pay, and Iranian developers could try to get paid in other ways---for example, by voluntary donations sent to their support web sites.  I suspect, though, that the position of the US government is that anything that helps the Iranian economy is subverting the sanctions---even free apps.

  • Reply 17 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,472member
    normm said:
    jdw said:
    "Since Apple takes a cut of all App Store purchases, sales from Iranian apps generate revenue and are thus in violation of U.S. law. "

    If the above statement is true, then clearly Apple is not opposed to the sanctions against IRAN because it Apple was opposed, they would need only offer the apps FOR FREE to circumvent that law, until such a time as the sections are lifted.
    That's a good point.  Maybe Apple should allow free apps with no in-app purchases or use of Apple Pay, and Iranian developers could try to get paid in other ways---for example, by voluntary donations sent to their support web sites.  I suspect, though, that the position of the US government is that anything that helps the Iranian economy is subverting the sanctions---even free apps.

    Apple isn't a charity. They're in it to profit and giving away apps in  a country they don't even sell hardware achieves just the opposite. Everything Apple does happens from a profit perspective just as it does in most other companies. If it doesn't result in moe money for Apple in some way why do it?
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 18 of 19
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,571member
    gatorguy said:
    Apple isn't a charity. They're in it to profit and giving away apps in  a country they don't even sell hardware achieves just the opposite. Everything Apple does happens from a profit perspective just as it does in most other companies. If it doesn't result in moe money for Apple in some way why do it?
    Well not only that but since they would still be paying the developer even if they gave the app away for free to the end user, I think that would be viewed as an attempt to skirt around the sanctions.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    macguimacgui Posts: 733member
    "Under the U.S. sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute or do business with apps or developers connected to certain U.S. embargoed countries." 

    Assuming this is accurate, it would seem that Free or Get vs paid doesn't matter. And in the spirit of not doing business with embargoed nations, at best it would be very poor form for Apple to do an end-run.


    As far as smuggling goes, even countries that allow legal importation of a product still experience  smuggling for a variety of reasons, but mainly profit. So it's no stretch to believe that anytime a country bans a product, smuggling and black markets will exist.

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