Apps, be it native or web-based, are the bread and butter of the smartphone experience, making app stores the gatekeepers to that mobile world. These stores have lately come under greater scrutiny, for their alleged anti-competitive practices, unfair revenue splits, or unreasonable decisions. The European Union has just published new rules that will make app stores give developers fairer treatment or at least a fighting chance at appealing their case.
One of the biggest complaints developers have with both Apple’s and Google’s app stores is the sudden and sometimes almost arbitrary removal of apps and games. Apple has been notorious for suddenly changing its policies to suit its decisions while Google is infamous for removing a lot of apps by mistake. Apple has recently announced that will give developers a chance to not only contest its verdict but even question the policies themselves but even that isn’t enough for the European Union.
The new EU rules are now required to provide developers and publishers a statement on why an app is being removed at least 30 days before removing the app. This will allow developers to either appeal their case or make the changes to comply with whatever policy they may have violated rather than just finding out their app was removed by mistake. It also means that app store owners won’t be able to change their policies overnight after they’ve sent the notice.
The new rules also require even more transparency from app stores, from their rankings to differentiated treatment. Google might find some difficulty here given how relies on proprietary and automated algorithms. App store owners are also being required to write contract terms in plain and intelligible language and that they notify parties at least 15 days beforehand regarding any change to those terms.
There are some caveats to these new rules, though. The EU’s wording is specific enough to exclude console game stores like the Sony PlayStation Store as well as subscription services like Apple Arcade. More importantly, these rules will only apply in the European Union’s territory, leaving Google and Apple free to keep the status quo everywhere else.