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Apple is tightening the noose around apps with 'irrationally high prices'

Apple has considerably strict guidelines around its App Store. Just last month, it removed a popular app for being named after a drug, a move which it had to reverse following backlash from the public. Now, the company is cracking down against apps with "irrationally high prices".

Thousands of app icons in the background with a white Apple logo in the foreground

There have been numerous posts in Apple's Developer Forums in the past few months of developers claiming that their applications have been removed for setting high prices. One such developer had subscription offers valued at $39.99/month going up to $99.99/year with a reported retention rate of 60%, but was still reprimanded by Apple.

A new report from 9to5Mac cites a similar case in which a developer's submission was rejected because of the same reason. Apple sent out the following email to the developer:

Customers expect the App Store to be a safe and trusted marketplace for purchasing digital goods. Apps should never betray this trust by attempting to rip-off or cheat users in any way.

Unfortunately, the prices you’ve selected for your app or in-app purchase products in your app do not reflect the value of the features and content offered to the user. Charging irrationally high prices for content or services with limited value is a rip-off to customers and is not appropriate for the App Store.

[...] To resolve this issue, we recommend you take the following steps:

  • Revise your app or in-app purchase products to provide more value to the user at the time of purchase
  • Choose a price for your app or in-app purchase products that accurately reflects the value being provided to the user
  • Once you’ve made appropriate changes, resubmit your app for review

The next submission of this app may require a longer review time, and it won’t be eligible for an expedited review until this issue is resolved.

While the developer was able to get their app published by explaining to Apple that they utilize expensive APIs which drive most of the cost, the move certainly highlights a growing trend from the company of removing apps that it believes "rip-off" its customers.

The icon and accompanying text of Apple and its App Store on a blue and back background

Indeed, the App Store Review Guidelines state that:

There are many ways to monetize your app on the App Store. If your business model isn’t obvious, make sure to explain in its metadata and App Review notes. If we can’t understand how your app works or your in-app purchases aren’t immediately obvious, it will delay your review and may trigger a rejection. And while pricing is up to you, we won’t distribute apps and in-app purchase items that are clear rip-offs. We’ll reject expensive apps that try to cheat users with irrationally high prices.

The wording above is arguably unclear as it does not define any threshold as to what Apple considers "irrationally high prices". This seems to be a growing pain point for honest developers who are charging justifiably high prices for their services. Other older forum posts have also highlighted cases in which Apple takes a long time in responding to justifications provided by developers and reinstating apps.

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