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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