Now Japan is Going After Apple’s App Store Too

Posted on September 4, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS with 14 Comments

Today, the Fair Trade Commission in Japan said that it was investigating Apple for antitrust abuse related to its iPhone App Store. The investigation is just the latest in a very long and growing list of probes of Apple and its illegal business practices.

News of the investigation comes via Bloomberg, which notes that Apple came to the attention of JFTC thanks to Epic’s legal battle with the consumer electronics giant. And as is the case everywhere in the world, news of possible antitrust action against Apple has brought a legion of complaints from heretofore silent developers.

Japan, of course, is a quirky and socially compliant country, and developers there are used to 30 percent fees, since they date back to Nintendo’s dominance of the video game industry starting in the 1980s with the Famicon, which was marketed in the U.S. as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). But Japanese developers take great exception to the many other issues that have already been raised by Epic and the many others complaining about Apple’s business practices. Among them, Bloomberg notes, are Apple’s inconsistent enforcement of its own App Store guidelines, unpredictable content decisions, and lapses in communication.

“Apple’s app review is often ambiguous, subjective, and irrational,” said Makoto Shoji, the founder of PrimeTheory. His company created iOS Reject Rescue, a service that helps developers navigate through Apple’s “unpredictable” app approval process. “Apple’s response to developers is often curt and boilerplate, but even with that, you must be polite on many occasions, like a servant asking the master what he wants next.”

Other Japanese game developers contacted by Bloomberg note that while the Apple App Store approval process is “particularly problematic,” the approval process over at Google’s Android Play Store tends to be smoother, with better communication. Developers complained that Apple sometimes takes weeks to review apps. And one studio noted that it had to give up hosting seasonal in-game events, which generate big revenues, because Apple didn’t respond to their update review request for over a month.

“While Apple will never admit it, I think there are times when they simply forget an item’s in the review queue or they intentionally keep it untouched as a sanction to a developer giving them the wrong attitude,” Shoji told Bloomberg.

“Apple is a sheriff who sometimes makes unfair interpretations of the guidelines for its own benefit,” Tokyo-based games consultant Hisakazu Hirabayashi says.

“I want from the bottom of my heart Epic to win,” game maker Hironao Kunimitsu adds, alluding to Epic’s legal battles with Apple, which could prove precedent-setting.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Now Japan is Going After Apple’s App Store Too”

  1. Andi

    In Japan if I'm not mistaken Apple has an even higher marketshare than the US. Stat counter has it at 63%. I don't have a history of anti-trust lawsuits in Japan but Apple surely is more vulnerable there.

    I noted Bloomberg keeps bringing Nintendo and Playstation into the mix but this is bigger than gaming. This is about a sales tax on all digital business carried on our most personal PCs.

  2. scovious

    How many more companies and countries will pile on to the fight against Apple? How much longer can Apple pretend to uphold its inconsistent rules with their developers?

  3. Andi

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Correct, and what is happening now it's being challenged. After I download an app Apple should, IMO, be out of the picture, just like it is on a macbook. Any business I conduct with my chosen dev is between me and the dev. I see no reason why I should pay Apple 30% of my Fortnite transactions. Makes no sense in 2020.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Andi: Right, and soon all downloads in the App Store will be free, but getting past the splash screen will be an in-app-purchase, of which Apple should clearly get nothing.

      • illuminated

        In reply to SvenJ:

        If others could use their own purchase systems then Apple would have to compete on price. Now Apple is insulated from any competition by their own rules. I bet that if Apple is forced to allow otherin-app purchase systems then Apple's fees would drop but they would lose only a small fraction of in-app purchases. It may make sense for big companies to have their own systems like Epic or Amazon. Smaller developers would be happy to use Apple's system. Competition would be good for users.

    • Matthias Götzke

      In reply to Andi:

      not quite, a small fee for the cost of operating the store itself is fine. but they rake in billions. At that rate they would have to have one reviewer per active app in the store.

  4. jgraebner

    In reply to lvthunder:

    That's usually a sign that the policies are too sweeping and complex.

  5. spiderman2

    finally...way to go!!!

  6. SvenJ

    "Apple came to the attention of JFTC thanks to Epic’s legal battle". Guess they hadn't heard of them before that? 

  7. illuminated

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Sales tax is also a cost of doing business. For user it does not matter if government, apple or your uncle takes 30%

    • Matthias Götzke

      In reply to illuminated:

      it should. in a properly run government if they took that as taxes you would benefit with better schools, better roads, better infrastructure (in a US style government you get the money shifted to big military devices benefiting only very few, or as a subsidy for Walmart to not pay their employees enough :) )

      and 30% sales tax sounds a tad high doesn't it ?

      • zeratul456

        In reply to matthiasg:

        Where I live the sales tax is 25% in some cases. But we get plenty of benefits from it. Like for example, unlike 'Murica I don't go into debt for life if I get cancer.

        On the Apple store, you as a developer get virtually nothing back for this. It's the users that mostly get advantages out of Apple's stricter guidelines, like no malware on the store.

  8. ghostrider

    Let the good times roll, and hopefully many more of these anti-trust investigations into a company that consider themselves untouchable.

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