Is Apple getting tough with scam apps with extortionate subscriptions?

App Store icon
App Store icon (Image credit: iMore)

We've been hearing over the last day or so that at least one developer has been on the wrong end of an App Store review rejection because their in-app purchases (IAP) were deemed unusually costly. It turns out that one of those, at least, was rejected in error. But the fact remains that the rejection did happen.

Does that mean that Apple really is getting tough with scam apps?

Now, it's important to remember that not every in-app purchase is a scam, nor is every app with a subscription. I've been vocal on that front before. But you only need to take a look at the App Store and some of the apps aimed at kids to know there is some predatory IAP pricing going on. And a ton of that revolves around subscriptions.

The apps I'm talking about are the ones that try to charge you $9.99 or more per week (opens in new tab) for access to a coloring app. Or a similar price for what's nothing more than a clone of Flappy Bird. The coloring space seems to be disproportionally affected here. And I've no idea why, other than unscrupulous developers praying on parents tapping through App Store dialog boxes to try and make little Timmy be quiet for at least the next five minutes.

Trust me. I've been there.

Which brings us to Apple's apparent crackdown. Based on what we're seeing on Twitter it appears App Store review is checking whether IAPs are priced at unusually high levels and then asking developers to justify themselves. In some cases, those justifications will be valid. Others, not so much. And that's all gravy for us as users.

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I know I'm hoping that this isn't all a flash in the pan and I suspect legitimate developers will be, too. App Store rules are there for a reason and Apple needs to make sure that it holds developers to account. Some of those rules might not be popular and others are downright insane. But preventing users from being ripped off?

I'm pretty sure we can all agree that's a very good rule indeed.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

2 Comments
  • "Does that mean that Apple really is getting tough with scam apps?" Considering Apple themselves are the King with scams with their extortion racket, especially with Apple care, or another way of putting it Apples extortion insurance. When you take your iPhone or MacBook in to get repaired, they will charge you a high fee for something that should be free, especially if you paid for Apple Care. But if you didn't buy into Apples extortion insurance scam, then for something simple as the glass back on your iPhone, then Apple charges you around half the price of your iPhone. For a glass back, really Apple! I know this is about apps, and even really high subscription fees. Apple themselves can bundle a number of their services together, which Apple themselves pay no 30% or 15% fees. Where as even a large company with a number of services still has to pay 30% or 15% after a year. What I am trying to get at is Apple themselves are unfair. So this is really rich coming from Apple.
  • How is Apple unfair? I don’t need to use their App Store to use YouTube or Facebook.