App Store bundle error punished developer for success

Posted:
in iOS edited May 16

The developer behind StopTheMadness Pro noticed that Apple charged the coder for refunds twice when a customer bought an app bundle, resulting in the developer owing Apple money for every bundle sale.

The App Store icon
Apple says its curated App Store is free from scams and protects developer interests



The App Store has a simple system for transactions. The developer charges customers for an app, Apple takes a portion as a commission, and the rest is paid to the developer.

StopTheMadness app developer Jeff Johnson discovered that Apple has been messing up this seemingly simple transaction system since at least February. For every app bundle Johnson sold, Apple was charging the developer money instead of paying out the proceeds.

The problem comes from an app bundle Johnson offers for StopTheMadness Pro.

He wanted to offer existing StopTheMadness app users an easy way to upgrade by bundling the old and new apps together. The new app is $14.99, while the old app varied in price but was usually around $9.99, so the final bundle price would be $5 or so.

Apple only charges the user the difference between the bundle price and existing purchase amounts for apps already owned in the bundle. But for the developer, their invoice shows a full bundle price charge, and the previous app purchase was refunded.

For some reason, starting in February, Johnson started getting two refunds for each bundle sold, leading to him owing Apple around $5 for each bundle sold. He lost money on every app bundle, which is obviously not how this is supposed to work.

Johnson did reach out to Apple Finance and expects to hear back "within 3 business days," which translates to Wednesday. Apple did finally reach out to Johnson after this story was published by various outlets.

If the charge Apple was making was less, the error likely would never have been caught. Johnson only discovered the error because his sales numbers from Apple Store Connect and the invoice matched, but the expected income was much lower by thousands of dollars.



Apple attributed the issue to a bug in the bundle pricing calculation, which has been fixed as of Tuesday. Apple intends to compensate affected developers for lost revenue.

Johnson has found an issue with how Apple presents itself as an important steward of the App Store that keeps scam apps out and protects developer interests. However, this bundle issue and repeat problems with App Store scams show otherwise and have left Johnson to boycott features like Feedback Assistant in the past.

Updated May 15, 8:25 p.m.: added information about Apple's response



Read on AppleInsider

ronn

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    Developer owes Apple money? but says "Apple will likely pay Johnson back and fix the error, but it is important for any developer with an app bundle... " so headline needs adjustment?
    edited May 16
  • Reply 2 of 8
    holmstockd said:
    Developer owes Apple money? but says "Apple will likely pay Johnson back and fix the error, but it is important for any developer with an app bundle... " so headline needs adjustment?
    Ditto.  I'm very confused.
    edited May 16
  • Reply 3 of 8
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,771member
    The developer incorrectly owes Apple money because of an error in Apple's bundle payment processing. Apple actually owes the developer money. That is one badly written headline and article. Also are you only allowed two sentences per paragraph?
  • Reply 4 of 8
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 2,259member
    Very confusing headline and article. Who owes who?

    Given the obvious absence of editorial review, for several years now, maybe we should get a check for doing that job? 

    You know how to reach me.
  • Reply 5 of 8
    Wesley HilliardWesley Hilliard Posts: 205member, administrator, moderator, editor
    I don't know if you guys know this, but usually when a developer sells an app, Apple owes them money, not the other way around. Critical accounting error in the headline tells the whole story, a developer would only owe Apple money because of an error. Apple hasn't made an official statement, so we don't know what course of action they will take. But we can only assume that Apple will likely pay Johnson back.

    This is probably one of the more straightforward stories we've ever published. And a warning, if you have problems or find errors in content, email us. Posting about it in forums will lead to an eventual ban if we have to keep warning you. Read the forum rules please.
    ronn
  • Reply 6 of 8
    Wesley HilliardWesley Hilliard Posts: 205member, administrator, moderator, editor
    Ok, I've consulted the headline gods. Let's see if the new one helps ya'll understanding.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    ransonranson Posts: 70member
    I don't know if you guys know this, but usually when a developer sells an app, Apple owes them money, not the other way around. Critical accounting error in the headline tells the whole story, a developer would only owe Apple money because of an error. Apple hasn't made an official statement, so we don't know what course of action they will take. But we can only assume that Apple will likely pay Johnson back.

    This is probably one of the more straightforward stories we've ever published. And a warning, if you have problems or find errors in content, email us. Posting about it in forums will lead to an eventual ban if we have to keep warning you. Read the forum rules please.
    I appreciate your fixing it. Since Apple can now charge a CTF to developers in Europe if they opt-in, devs very well could end up owing Apple money outside of a software bug, contrary to your points here. And since developers actually can legitimately owe Apple money, the headline did need to be reconsidered.
  • Reply 8 of 8
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,771member
    Much better title @"Wesley Hilliard". Thanks for the fix
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