Apple announced last year the new App Store Small Business Program, which allows small developers to pay a reduced commission to Apple for sales made through the App Store. However, developer Sean Harding shared his story on Twitter about how he became ineligible for this program even though he’s an independent, small developer.
Apple has traditionally charged a 30% fee on every sale made through the App Store, whether it’s an app or in-app purchase. After several complaints, the company announced that developers who earned up to $1 million in proceeds during the previous year could apply to a program to have this rate reduced to 15%.
Harding, who has been developing iOS apps independently for some time, decided last year to “get more serious” about his apps. He formed a small private company (LLC) and created a new business account on Apple Developer, when he requested the migration of his apps to this account.
However, afraid of having troubles to join the App Store Small Business Program, he contacted Apple Support for further clarification. Apple didn’t properly answer his questions.
So I did what I thought was the right thing. I emailed Apple and asked them for clarification. If transferring the app would make me ineligible for the Small Business Program, it wasn’t worth it. The first response I got back did not answer the right question. So I wrote again.
The second response also did not answer the right question. So I wrote again. The third response said, “Since, you are not enrolled into the small business program yet, You are able to transfer the application and then submit your enrollment.”
In the same email, Apple also said that the company would not be able to guarantee his eligibility in the program after the apps were transferred, which seemed ambiguous to Harding.
Rather than pressing for clarification a fourth time, I interpreted it to mean “a transfer won’t disqualify you, but we’re not going to guarantee anyone acceptance.” So, I did the transfer, submitted my Small Business Program application, and waited.
Unfortunately, after the transfer was complete, Apple rejected Harding’s apps for the App Store Small Business Program on the grounds that since his apps were transferred from one account to another, they were no longer eligible for the reduced fee. Apple later told the developer that any app transferred after January 1, 2021, is ineligible for the program, which is something the company didn’t clarify to Harding before.
While Harding is aware that he made a mistake in requesting the transfer of apps from one account to another when he was unsure about the result, he argues that Apple failed to provide a clear response and also failed to rethink his situation.
We don’t know if the company will ever make exceptions for cases like this, but if you’re a developer, be aware that transferring your apps from one account to another may result in you never being able to join the App Store Small Business Program.
Update: Apple has contacted the developer and reconsidered Harding’s application to the App Store Small Business Program.
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