Apple Takes Aggressive Stance Against Fleeceware App Developers

By Bill Toulas / February 22, 2021

Back in April 2020, we warned you about the rising volumes of the so-called “fleeceware” apps on the App Store. These are apps that charge users a premium without offering anything useful in return, so they are essentially relying on deception, trickery, and borderline scamming.

Back then, Apple appeared somewhat complacent with the situation, not doing much to help the users identify the over-charging risks. This reached a point where some accused the company of purposeful inaction with the goal of pumping up those hefty 30% in-app purchase cuts.

Apple has finally decided to do something about it, starting with straight-out rejecting these apps, urging the developers to revise their pricing model. This means Apple’s reviewers will now consider the apps' features, evaluate them as objectively as possible, and then compare them with the selected prices. If there’s a void of mismatch between the two, the app will be rejected, and the developer will be advised to revise their in-app prices and then resubmit the app.

As the consumer electronics company points out, customers expect the App Store to be a safe and trusted marketplace for purchasing digital goods, and there should be no apps that threaten to betray this trust by attempting to rip-off or cheat users in any way. So, for Apple, what fleeceware developers are doing is crystal clear - they're deceiving people. What remains to be seen is what will be considered irrationally high and whether app developers will start complaining about discrimination.

What Apple has decided to do with vigorous reviews is diametrically different from what Google did, which is to implement safety mechanisms and just let anything on the Play Store. Google’s system relies on the excitation of the users’ minds, alerting them when the time to pay approaches, warning them about potential over-charging risks, and generally making everything as transparent as possible.

The ideal situation would be to have both approaches implemented in a single system, but considering that neither Apple nor Google had any anti-fleeceware mechanisms in place until recently, this is unquestionably a positive development. From the user’s perspective, our advice would be to always check reviews and the rating score of the app you’re looking to install. Fleeceware products have a notoriously low score, and there’s no getting around that.

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