Apple settles lawsuit with developer over App Store releases and scams – TechCrunch

A application developer lawsuit on App Store Dismissals, Scams and Fraud ended in a settlement agreement after court filings showed a request to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this summer. Complainant, app developer and former Pinterest engineer Kosta Eleftheriou has made a name for himself in recent months calling out some of the App Store’s most egregious scams. This peaked later in his own lawsuit against Apple, filed in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County in March 2021, where he alleged his own app was wrongfully rejected from the App Store and then targeted by scammers, resulting in lost revenue.

The case had been a high-profile example of developer dissatisfaction with Apple’s App Store. Many developers have become unhappy not only with having to pay Apple commissions on their own sales – something Epic Games is currently pursuing – but also the way the App Store model itself encourages scammers to scam and profit from the legitimate work of developers. But few take these cases to court, as Eleftheriou did.

Its complaint alleged that not only did Apple reject its FlickType Apple Watch keyboard app from the App Store, but it then endorsed competing keyboard apps and others that used an embedded version of the FlickType keyboard to post to the App Store. ‘AppStore. This apparently contradicts Apple’s claim that the FlickType keyboard offered a “poor user experience”, given that Apple’s own app review team greenlighted the same technology when integrated with other apps such as Nano for Reddit, Chirp for Twitter, WatchChat for WhatsApp and Lens for Instagram.

Moreover, when the keyboard app was allowed to re-enter the App Store, its early success made it a target for App Store scammers who launched less usable competitors, spurred on by fake ratings and reviews.

As a result, FlickType’s own revenue fell from $130,000 in its first month to just $20,000 as consumers opted for the “higher-rated” alternatives, the developer said.

Following the filing last yearBoth sides have participated in court appeals with a judge, the court record shows, including as recently as this spring. A request to dismiss the lawsuit was then filed on July 21, 2022, after Apple and Kpaw (Eleftheriou’s company) reached an agreement.

Eleftheriou was unable to comment on the terms of the settlement. Apple was also unable to comment on the dismissal immediately.

However, it’s hard to imagine the developer would have agreed to dismiss the deal if the terms weren’t at least somewhat acceptable, given its constant criticism of Apple’s App Store business. and challenges developers face.

Last year, for example, Eleftheriou served as a source for reports on App Store Scams like a crypto wallet app that scammed a user on his savings (~$600,000); a game for children contained a hidden online casino; and a VPN app who scammed its users out of $5 million per year, among others. His findings were also discussed in a series of questions during a Senate Antitrust Hearing in April 2021, when Apple Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer explained why Apple was unable to locate these types of scams itself, given that they were “very easy to identify” , citing the work of Eleftheriou.

More recently, the FTC brought to light fake App Store reviews as part of a broader action against rental platform Roomster, in his lawsuit filed this week — an indication that if Apple wouldn’t act, it would.

Although App Store reviews continue to be an issue, Apple has made some concessions related to developer needs since Eleftheriou’s lawsuit was filed.

last fall, Apple has brought back the “Report a problem” button to the App Store, which invites the public to help it fight against fraudulent applications. This too updated its App Store guidelines in June last year to crack down on fraud and scams by promising to remove scammers from the Apple Developer Program.

But there’s still work to be done, as app developers still too often have no recourse but to post on Twitter or contact the media to air their complaints when a scammer impacts their business. and their income. It was recently the case with Authenticator app developer Kevin Archer, who detailed in a Twitter thread how he continues to face App Store subscription scammers who copied his legit app and then asked for reviews during the integration and offered consumers a subscription when first launched.

While settling small lawsuits like Eleftheriou’s might be common for a company the size of Apple, the attention they receive – not just among developers but also in the broader Apple consumer community – n It’s not something Apple probably wants to deal with right now. In particular, the company wants to avoid a negative public perception of its activities at a time when the United States Department of Justice is in the early stages of filing an antitrust complaint targeting Apple.

As for Eleftheriou, he hasn’t given up on app development, despite all these problems.

The developer says it is currently working on a project related to an iPhone keyboard but has no further details to share at this time. Notably, his amended complaint referred to difficulties with building keyboard apps, because Apple never made a developer API available to request “full access” directly from the keyboard. He also argued that Apple limits third-party keyboards in areas such as available memory, ability to collect data to make better predictions, ability to be used in password fields, and restrictions on the display of visual elements above the keyboards, indicates the complaint.

Eleftheriou couldn’t yet say what, if anything, had changed since then on that front that his new app might be able to fix.

He is always on the lookout for scams. Using a software tool he built to identify scams and fraud related to App Store subscriptions, Eleftheriou realizes that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“The other day I re-launched my scam finder tool and was able to find several new scam apps in five minutes, and it clearly affects users and developers alike,” he noted. .

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