Apple Doesn’t Care About Apps that Violate the Company’s Rules [Updated]

I own a Netatmo weather station, which I use to monitor the temperature in my garden, and in my office. This weather station uses an iOS app, which can send me notifications, such as when the temperature goes above or below certain thresholds that I set.

On black Friday, I received this notification:

Netatmo

This sort of notification is against Apple’s App Store guidelines; in section 4.5.4, about push notifications, these guidelines say:

4.5.4 Push Notifications must not be required for the app to function, and should not be used for advertising, promotions, or direct marketing purposes or to send sensitive personal or confidential information. Abuse of these services may result in revocation of your privileges.

So I contacted Apple’s iTunes Store support. Here’s what they replied:

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for contacting us. I can certainly understand your concern regarding this issue.

In this case, I would recommend you to contact the app developer as they are the creators if [sic] the app.

I would also like to inform you that, iTunes Store is just a store front where we sell the contents provided by the content provider.

It seems like Apple doesn’t care what an app does; you can probably report any type of violation and they won’t do anything about it. This is quite surprising, given their stringent guidelines for apps. But, hey, too much work, I guess.

Update: I replied to that reply, saying:

So you’re saying that an app that violates your App Store Guidelines won’t have any problem because you don’t care about it?

And I received a reply back:

Thank you for providing this information about an app that may be violating the review guidelines. We take these cases very seriously as we care about our customers and App Store. We have escalated the information you have provided to our App Review team. They will investigate the app using the information you have provided and follow up directly with the developer if the app is in violation to fix the issue. Please understand that we cannot provide you any updates on the investigation as we can only communicate with the developer of the app.

We thank you for the information and if you can provide anymore information to help with the investigation it will be appreciated greatly.

So it seems the first-level support doesn’t care, and that you need to be more forceful to get some action. This said, there is no easy way to report this sort of thing; you have to go to the app’s page and report a problem; and, of course, you can only do this on iOS since there is no longer an App Store in iTunes. I’ll post more info here if I hear anything back.

10 thoughts on “Apple Doesn’t Care About Apps that Violate the Company’s Rules [Updated]

  1. Being an involved and knowledgeable consumer is the responsibility of all those blessed with living in a (fairly) free and (fairly) capitalist society. The fact you wrote Apple and pointed out this discrepancy and shared with your readers should inspire us to follow suit when we too experience problems in the marketplace.
    I have always tried to be the guy who points out good AND bad behavior on the part of companies I deal with. I feel it is my responsibility.
    I have a garden too Kirk. I would have considered this app but thanks to you I will not now do so.
    What do you grow in your garden in that beautiful pastoral English countryside you call home??

    • We have a fairly large garden – mostly lawn, about 1/3 acre – but with lots of flowers around it, trees such as magnolia, a big pine tree, a hazel, and blackberries around the walls. It’s quite nice.

  2. Just out of curiosity, if you open System Preferences, Notifications and go to the Netatmo app, can you turn off Notifications there? I suspect that the ability to turn them off satisfies Apple’s guidelines. After all, Apple could argue that by allowing the app to send notifications at all, you are allowing it to send ANY and ALL notifications. Not what one would expect, given what Apple says, but after all it says that “should not” and not “must not.”

      • Well, for whatever reason, Apple says that it “must not” be dependent on notifications to work, and “should not” be used for advertising. And that abuse of the principle “may” lead to some discipline. All of which means to me that Apple views requiring notifications as a no-no, advertising using them as a “naughty” and punishment as an option. Not a lot of “oomph” in that standard.

  3. Interesting. I reported an app that I considered violated the guidelines through my Apple Developer membership. It was taken seriously, and dealt with quickly through that route. The app was updated to be compliant within a few days.

    • I didn’t think of doing that through my developer account. I wouldn’t know where to find a reporting tool like that there.

  4. So one app violated Apple’s restrictions about sending an ad notification, and one Apple customer-service rep didn’t seem to worry about it, and your generalization is “Apple doesn’t care about apps that violate the company’s rules”? I guess if the headline was a more accurate, “One Apple rep didn’t care about an app violation”, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.

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