Last month, we saw FlickType developer Kosta Eleftheriou take to Twitter to call out App Store scams with some reportedly lasting years and making millions of dollars. He later shared a detailed thread on how some developers abuse and game the App Store with fake ratings and reviews. Now Eleftheriou has filed a lawsuit with the claim that “Apple systematically flexes its monopoly muscle against potential competition through the App Store,” has breached its contract with developers, and more.
In one of the detailed Twitter threads we saw from Eleftheriou last month, he said “Up to now, I’ve been in the “Apple wants to do the right thing” camp. My viewpoint is starting to change.” With the right thing referencing how Apple runs and moderates the App Store, particularly when it comes to app scams.
While Apple has taken action and removed a number of the alleged scam apps that Eleftheriou called out, the lawsuit he and his partner have filed reveals the belief that Apple has a monopoly and is abusing its power (via The Verge).
One of the main complaints the case is based on is conversation between Apple and Eleftheriou about acquiring his FlickType app for Apple Watch and how Apple allegedly handled the situation. Other accusations include Apple using false advertising, breaching its contract with developers, and even fraud.
In the complaint, Eleftheriou goes further into detail about what he claims is wrongful behavior from Apple, including alleged false advertising, breach of its developer agreement, and fraud. One notable claim involves Apple trying to acquire FlickType, after which Eleftheriou says he faced “roadblock after roadblock” to selling his software on the App Store. The complaint suggests Apple chose not to take action on scam and copycat apps in an effort to force Eleftheriou to sell his app to Apple. “Evidently, Apple thought Plaintiff would simply give up and sell its application to Apple at a discount,” the complaint reads.
In the filing, Eleftheriou claims this is how Apple pits scam apps against legitimate ones:
Apple entices software application developers like Plaintiff to develop innovative applications with the promise of a fair and secure App Store in which to sell them. In truth, Apple systematically flexes its monopoly muscle against potential competition through the App Store and profits from rampant fraudulent practices. If Apple cannot buy a desired application from a developer on the cheap, Apple attempts to crush that developer through exploitive fees and selective application of opaque and unreasonable constraints against the developer.
At the same time, Apple permits other developers that Apple does not view as real competition, including scam competitors, to peddle similar, inferior products because Apple profits from their sales. Scammers oftentimes use screenshots and videos taken from legitimate developer’s applications and manipulate their ratings. Apple does little to police these practices because it profits from them. Apple then lies to its regulators by asserting that it must maintain its monopoly power over the sale of Apple-related applications to protect consumers, when, in fact, Apple lets them get ripped off and exploits the developers trying to deliver innovation to consumers.
Up until now, we’ve mostly seen Apple hit with antitrust lawsuits from big developers like Epic, Spotify, etc., national governments and more recently individual US states like North Dakota, Minnesota, and Arizona.
This filing from Eleftheriou marks a notable case of an individual developer bringing an antitrust suit against Apple.
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