ProtonMail CEO alleges Apple forced them to add in-app purchases
Lately, the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games has been the talk of the town. The latter alleges that Apple enforces arbitrary rules and unfairly takes a 30% cut on purchases made within third-party apps. Now, Andy Yen, the CEO of ProtonMail, has also expressed similar concerns, saying that the Cupertino giant forced them to adopt in-app purchases in their free app.
Yen testified against Apple
In his public testimony to Congress, Yen revealed that, in 2018, Apple demanded monetization of ProtonMail with an in-app purchases option. The change was odd, given that ProtonMail had been operating on the App Store as a free service since 2016. Strangely, when Yen and team tried informing customers about this change, Apple blocked all ProtonMail updates and threatened to remove it completely.
He compared Apple's practices with 'mafia extortion'
Speaking with The Verge, Yen said, in their first two years at the App Store, everything was fine. But, he said, "As you start getting significant uptake in uploads and downloads, they start looking at your situation more carefully, and then as any good Mafia extortion goes, they come to shake you down for some money." It's a common practice, the developer emphasized.
Users couldn't pay at all, Yen recalled
"We didn't offer a paid version in the App Store, it was free to download...it wasn't like Epic where you had alternative payment option, you couldn't pay at all," Yen said, relating the matter to the removal of Epic's Fortnite for additional payment option.
Purchase option still not removed
On September 11, Apple changed rules to exempt free apps that act as a companion to web-based tools from using its in-app purchase system for subscriptions. However, Yen says, they have not removed their in-app purchase system as they fear Apple could retaliate and because "the rules as written would still keep him from telling customers that there's even an upgrade to be had."
Other developers also fear the same
"There's a lot of fear in the space right now; people are completely petrified to say anything," Yen said, noting that other developers also have similar concerns.
Similar case was presented by WordPress
The case of ProtonMail sounds similar to the one of WordPress, which was also forced by Apple to add in-app purchases before being permitted to continue with the free app. Other developers, including Spotify, Tile, and Match, have also had problems with Apple's rules and are running an alliance - The Coalition for App Fairness - against them in conjunction with ProtonMail.
What Apple says on the matter?
Apple commented on the matter, saying that "it doesn't retaliate against developers" and works with them to get their apps on the store while applying the rules fairly. The company also pointed out that "developers have many ways to communicate and appeal Apple's decisions, including the ability to appeal entire rules, and that it will no longer hold up bug fixes for rule violations."