Apple increases scrutiny of 'irrationally high' app prices

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 20
Apple is rejecting apps that have "irrationally high" in-app purchase prices, just a few weeks after a developer vented his frustrations about scams on the App Store.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


An email Apple sent to a developer whose app was rejected by the company's App Store review team explains that reviewers won't approve apps that are "rip-offs," citing Section 3 of the App Store Review guidelines.

Now confirmed: Apple is rejecting apps with irrationally high prices for in-apps and subscriptions.

You have to explain why are you charging like $7.99 per week. Because of using 3rd-party paid services, or something similar.

//thanks @aso_rad for the screenshot. pic.twitter.com/8sDSny4604

-- ilia kukharev (@ilyakuh)


Specifically, Section 3 says that Apple "won't distribute apps and in-app purchase items that are clear rip-offs." It adds that the company will "reject expensive apps that try to cheat users with irrationally high prices."

This policy has been in place for a while, but it seems like there has been an uptick in enforcement. One developer, for example, wrote in 2020 that their app was rejected for charging $39.99 a month.

There are other posts in the Apple Developer Forums that suggest the company appears to take a closer look at apps with higher prices.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple said that this policy is part of its commitment to keeping the App Store a safe place for users. It added that reviewers reject apps that scam or rip off users.

Although it isn't clear if it's related, a report from earlier in February shed some light on App Store scams that make millions of dollars a year. Developer Kosta Eleftheriou highlighted many of these scam apps, which steal features and ideas from other apps, charge exorbitant fees, or fall short of what they advertise. Eleftheriou also began putting pressure on Apple to better enforce its policies.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,516member
    Good next tackle in app purchases that can be higher price for less functionality.
    caladanianmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,886member
    Just ban IAP that doesn’t unlock a pro version.  Maybe allow a one month free trail instead.
    edited February 19 Gerry-Acornchipmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 23
    The whole notion of “free” apps with in-app purchases is dishonest. Charge a fair price up front and get it all. Enough with the free sample of crack business model. 
    edited February 19 flyingdpdysamoriamuthuk_vanalingamright_said_fredwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    Great job Apple!!!!!
    viclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    leighrleighr Posts: 217member
    Subscription based apps (which is most of them now) do need to be realistic. Considering the cost of an AppleTV+ is under $10 a month, which costs Apple millions to develop each month, you’d have to question any subscription that comes close to even half that per month. 
    caladanianviclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,524member
    In-app purchases is a cancer in the App Store.  It's sole purpose is to get vulnerable users hooked and then slowly bleed then dry.  Apple should be better than this.  It's complete garbage.  I would gladly spend a few extra dollars for a game that does not harass me for more money.
    edited February 19 flyingdpdysamoriacornchipgeorgie01muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    roakeroake Posts: 737member
    I long ago purchased the Kardia device from AliveCor, which is a 1-lead EKG device that is inferior to what the Apple Watch can do (Apple watch didn’t offer it at that time, though).

    Only afterwards did I realize that those guys charged you $10/month just to be able to review ekg strips that were stored ON YOUR OWN DEVICE.  As far as I could tell, they had zero overhead cost beyond the initial development.  If you wanted to show your doctor the strip, you had to pay them $10/month.  At least at the time, you got nothing else for that subscription, as far as I could tell.  It felt then like a rip off, and still does.  I have used it zero times since I got my EKG Apple Watch.
    dysamoriaviclauyycGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,699member
    The only justification for a subscription is if the makers update the content at last once a week, or have to hook into a pay-for service. If they don’t do this then I’m not buying. 


    dysamoriacaladanianmuthuk_vanalingamright_said_fredwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,699member
    And another thing. 

    When a trial subscription expires, do not automatically start charging. 

    Ask first. 
    dysamoriatenthousandthingscaladanianGerry-Aviclauyycmuthuk_vanalingamright_said_fredwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    The whole notion of “free” apps with in-app purchases is dishonest. Charge a fair price up front and get it all. Enough with the free sample of crack business model. 
    Apple screws developers with this on many apps (not all fit this) because users have a crazy thought that if they bought a given version of the application, they should get free future features and changes until the heat death of the universe. Apple doesn’t have a model for a new major version release that genuinely adds value.

    There are multiple reasons an application will possibly be abandoned in the app store, and for developers making an honest living, this “pay for it once and get all possible future updates with new features for free” is tantamount to contractual slavery.  Either that, or you can reasonably expect developers to create an application with a fixed set of features from the start, and only spend as much time/energy/money to do bug fixes and the work required to keep them working with the latest versions of the OS.  Make no mistake, Apple is always deprecating and eventually removing old APIs and frameworks, even if they’re not busy breaking them. Apple’s platforms are nowhere near the “write once, run unmodified for 20 years”  like for Windows.
    dysamoriaviclauyycradarthekat
  • Reply 11 of 23
    sflocal said:
    In-app purchases is a cancer in the App Store.  It's sole purpose is to get vulnerable users hooked and then slowly bleed then dry.  Apple should be better than this.  It's complete garbage.  I would gladly spend a few extra dollars for a game that does not harass me for more money.
    I think IAP is arguably the primary reason for the success of the App Store, especially from Apple's financial perspective.  Without it, I think it's fair to say the revenue that Apple enjoys from the App Store wouldn't be as robust as it is currently.  IAP is an outsized revenue contributor to most all app stores and is a foundational piece of app store environments.  I doubt it's going anywhere.  It's only going to be augmented by it's cousin subscription services. 

    There are always those, like you, who proclaim a willingness to spend more for a one time fee for full access.  That group is a small, small minority with a comparatively small impact vs the IAP crowd.  Generally speaking, history has shown people don't mind being nickel-and-dimed ad infinitum.  Evidence of that can be seen in the highest revenue generators in app stores.

    tl;dr As long as IAP is a top revenue generator, it will be an integral part of the App Store.  Apple ain't gonna forego billions a quarter.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 23
    Apple created a mess - I have to really carefully scan the App Store for the exact business model. Not great when your kids are asking for a “free app”.

    Also, Apple shouldn’t be judge of what is “reasonable”. That’s up to the developer.

    It’s up to them to make browsing and filtering on business model easier. I want to be able to hide subscriptions from my search results for starters.
    anonconformist
  • Reply 13 of 23
    Apple created a mess - I have to really carefully scan the App Store for the exact business model. Not great when your kids are asking for a “free app”.

    Also, Apple shouldn’t be judge of what is “reasonable”. That’s up to the developer.

    It’s up to them to make browsing and filtering on business model easier. I want to be able to hide subscriptions from my search results for starters.
    Doesn't the App Store clearly identify that an app has IAP. For sure if you are installing an app for a kid you do need to be careful if it has IAP.  
    When my kid was younger and wanted to buy songs on iTunes, I set up an account that she could only use gifts cards with.  That limited the spend to only those and essentially was her choice how she spent her own money.
    I don't know how the App Store works with kids, but I guess that Apple should allow parents to block IAP from their kids accounts.
    viclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,638member
    Also, Apple shouldn’t be judge of what is “reasonable”. That’s up to the developer.
    Apple are hosting the app. Just like any retailer they’re going to have an interest in the products that they stock.  A shitty product reflects badly on Apple too.
    steve_jobsradarthekat
  • Reply 15 of 23
    You do realize that if Epic gets its way this will all become moot, right?
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 16 of 23
    maximara said:
    You do realize that if Epic gets its way this will all become moot, right?
    It will not be moot — indeed, the ongoing problem of scam apps will become front and center if Epic wins. Apple’s apparently increasing efforts to counter abuse can be seen as preparation for negotiating/defining the terms for regulating third-party app stores. Epic itself and other legitimate developers with actual customers won’t have any difficulty complying, but fraud is a different story. 
    edited February 21 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    maximara said:
    You do realize that if Epic gets its way this will all become moot, right?
    It will not be moot — indeed, the ongoing problem of scam apps will become front and center if Epic wins. Apple’s apparently increasing efforts to counter abuse can be seen as preparation for negotiating/defining the terms for regulating third-party app stores. Epic itself and other legitimate developers with actual customers won’t have any difficulty complying, but fraud is a different story. 
    "Fraud" in the digital space seems to be a totally different animal than anywhere else.  More over Epic convincing the developers of games that obtained their kickstarter money by promising to bed on Steam at launch only to become Epic exclusives, would anywhere else, be considered bait and switch which is considered a type of fraud.  The fact Epic shelled out refunds like crazy over the whole Shenmue 3 fiasco shows they know things are not a simple as they would like people to believe.


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23

    I think IAP is arguably the primary reason for the success of the App Store, especially from Apple's financial perspective.  Without it, I think it's fair to say the revenue that Apple enjoys from the App Store wouldn't be as robust as it is currently.  IAP is an outsized revenue contributor to most all app stores and is a foundational piece of app store environments.  I doubt it's going anywhere.  It's only going to be augmented by it's cousin subscription services. 

    There are always those, like you, who proclaim a willingness to spend more for a one time fee for full access.  That group is a small, small minority with a comparatively small impact vs the IAP crowd.  Generally speaking, history has shown people don't mind being nickel-and-dimed ad infinitum.  Evidence of that can be seen in the highest revenue generators in app stores.
    The App Store was a success long before IAP became commonplace. Apple promoted IAP as a way for developers to maintain revenue and unfortunately developers have exploited it. Sometimes IAP is justified, but a developer relying on it to make money without added value or through user manipulation is like living off welfare.

    Apple should have developed an easy method for developers to update apps, notify the user, and allow charging for the update. 

    A lot of the reason users won’t pay for one time access is because there is another option. People were paying for one time access before IAP because that was the norm. Now it’s not. Users have been manipulated. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    This is good!
    But I would like to see Apple clean up this area even more.

    One area they could work on would be the "free trial" that, a week or so later, triggers an expensive subscription.
    For kids, and some adults, that's almost a con game as in "get something for nothing":   They click on it to try it then forget about it.  But, a week later the charges start appearing.  And, if they aren't paying close attention to their credit card, keep coming and coming and coming.

    As subscriptions become more and more common, I would like to see Apple increase transparency and user control.  
    One way to start would be that following the usual "free trial" the subscription doesn't kick in until the user affirms they want a subscription -- and they are given clear choices on their options (such as weekly, monthly, etc...)

    Essentially it feels that the subscription model took off while Apple and its App Store are still back in the "free" and "purchase" model era.
    maximaramuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23
    Rayz2016 said:
    And another thing. 

    When a trial subscription expires, do not automatically start charging. 

    Ask first. 
    It would be nice if they did that, but Apple would have to follow suit as well. Apple charges for subscriptions after the free trial if you don't cancel it in time. 
    GeorgeBMac
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