Apple suspends developer account over 'review fraud'

The truth of the matter seems a lot more complicated, though.


Review fraud is a hot topic of late. Both Amazon and Steam are dealing with it in their own ways, and now Apple is jumping into the fray with the creator of the dev-tool, Dash. Apple removed the application from the App Store last week, later telling Bogdan Popsecu that his account was being suspended due to suspicion of review manipulation. Popsecu's side of the story is such: Around four years ago he paid for a relative's Apple Developer Program Membership with his credit card and gave her some test hardware to work with.

"From then on, those accounts were linked in the eyes of Apple," Popsecu writes. "Once that account was involved with review manipulation, my account was closed." Popsecu says that he wasn't given any advance warning of the shutdown and assumed that certain features of his iTunes Connect account being disabled (account showing it was closed and apps being pulled from the digital storefront) was part of migrating from an individual account to a company one.

That wasn't the case. Apple told Popsecu (he recorded his last phone call with an Apple representative) that to get his account reinstated, he'd have to pen a blog post admitting "some wrongdoing."

"I told them I can't do that because I did nothing wrong," Popsecu says. "On Saturday they told me that they are fine with me writing the truth about what happened, and that if I did that, my account would be restored.

"Saturday night I sent a blog post draft to Apple and have since waited for their approval. Tonight, Apple decided to accuse me of manipulating the App Store in public via a spokesperson."

Apple's statement to iMore is as follows:

"Almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps for this developer so we removed their apps and accounts from the App Store. Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful.

We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers."

In the recorded phone call, Popsecu says that he was never contacted and the Apple spokesperson confirmed that the company had contacted the other person (presumably Popsecu's relative) about the incident instead because, from Apple's perspective, the two accounts were the same entity.

Popsecu says he's never engaged in review fraud -- giving his own app high ratings and leaving negative ones for competitors -- and that "Apple's decision is final and can't be repealed."

"We want to work with you, but we want to make it clear that we didn't make a mistake, right?" the spokesperson asks on the call. "We were correct when we did our investigation and we had uncovered that your account was linked to an account with fraudulent activity. And when we say 'linked,' we mean that test devices, credit card that was used to enroll the accounts."

It paints Popsecu into a corner, because while he says he didn't do any of the nefarious deeds himself, he's still being punished by Apple's draconian viewpoint. For now, Popsecu says that he'll continue supporting the desktop version of Dash and that if you want to keep using it you should migrate your license immediately.

"I don't know if/when things will go back to normal," he says.

We've reached out to Apple for a comment and will update this post should more information arrive.