An app developer’s lawsuit over App Store rejections, scams and fraud has ended in a settlement agreement after the court filed a petition to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this summer. The plaintiff, app developer and former Pinterest engineer Kosta Eleftheriou, made a name for himself in recent months by citing some of the most egregious App Store scams. This later culminated in a lawsuit of its own against Apple, filed in March 2021 in the California Superior Court in Santa Clara County, where it alleged that its own app had been unfairly rejected from the App Store and later targeted by scammers, leading to to loss of income. .
The case was a high-profile example of developer dissatisfaction with Apple’s App Store business. Many developers have become dissatisfied not only with the demand to pay Apple commissions on their own sales – something Epic Games is currently suing over – but also with the way the App Store model itself encourages scammers to do scams and to take advantage of the work of legitimate developers. But few take these cases to court, as Eleftheriou had done.
His complaint alleged that Apple rejected not only its FlickType Apple Watch keyboard app from the App Store, but also competitor keyboard apps and others that used an integrated version of FlickType keyboard to publish to the App Store. This seemingly contradicted Apple’s claim that the FlickType keyboard provided a “poor user experience” as Apple’s own app review team gave the green light to the same technology when integrated into other apps like 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 useful competitors, spurred on by fake ratings and reviews.
As a result, FlickType’s own revenue dropped from $130,000 in its first month to just $20,000 as consumers chose the “higher-rated” alternatives, the developer said.
After the case was filed last year, the two parties participated in judicial talks with a judge, the court said, also this spring. Then, on July 21, 2022, a petition to dismiss the lawsuit was filed, after Apple and Kpaw (Eleftheriou’s company) reached an agreement.
Eleftheriou could not comment on the terms of the settlement. Apple could not immediately say anything about the layoff.
However, it’s hard to imagine that the developer would have agreed to dismiss the case if the terms weren’t at least somewhat acceptable, given his continued criticism of Apple’s App Store business and the hardships developers face.
Last year, for example, Eleftheriou served as a source for news stories about App Store scams, such as a crypto wallet app that scammed a user out of his savings (~$600,000); a child’s play with a hidden online casino; and a VPN app that scammed its users $5 million a year, among other things. His findings were also raised in a series of questions at an April 2021 Senate antitrust hearing when Apple’s chief compliance officer Kyle Andeer asked why Apple couldn’t locate these types of scams on its own, given that they were “trivially easy to identify.” . ”, referring to Eleftheriou’s work.
More recently, the FTC highlighted fake App Store reviews as part of a larger action against rental platform Roomster, in the lawsuit filed this week — an indication that if Apple didn’t take action, it would.
While App Store ratings remain an issue, Apple has made some concessions regarding developer needs in the time since Eleftheriou’s lawsuit was filed.
Last fall, Apple brought back the “Report a Problem” button in the App Store, which invites the public to help fight apps that commit fraud. It also updated its App Store guidelines last June to tackle fraud and scams by promising to remove scammers from the Apple Developer Program.
But more work needs to be done, as app developers too often have no other solution but to post on Twitter or reach out to the media to voice their complaints when a scammer affects their business and revenue. That was the case recently with Authenticator app developer Kevin Archer, who described in a Twitter thread how he continues to encounter App Store subscription scammers who copied his legitimate app, then begged for reviews during launch and pushed a subscription to consumers at the first launch.
While settling smaller lawsuits like Eleftheriou’s may be routine for a company of Apple’s size, the attention they’re getting — not just among developers but the wider Apple consumer community — is something Apple needs right now. probably don’t want to manage. In particular, the company wants to avoid a negative public perception of its company at a time when the US Department of Justice is in the early stages of filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.
As for Eleftheriou, he hasn’t given up on app development despite all these issues.
The developer says he is now working on a project related to an iPhone keyboard, but has no further details to share at this time. His amended complaint specifically referred to problems building keyboard apps, as Apple never provided a developer API to request “Full Access” directly from the keyboard. He also argued that Apple limits third-party keyboards in areas such as available memory, the ability to collect data to make better predictions, the ability to be used in password fields and restrictions on displaying visuals above the keyboards, the statement said. complaint.
Eleftheriou couldn’t say yet what has changed on this front since then and what his new app might be able to address.
He is also still looking for scams. Using a software tool he built to identify App Store subscription scams and fraud, Eleftheriou realizes that much more work needs to be done.
“Recently, I repurposed my scam detection tool and was able to find several new scam apps within five minutes, and this clearly impacts both users and developers,” he noted.