App Store: No appeal for developers?

My most recent article for The Mac Observer delves into the problems developers have with Apple’s App Store approval process — focusing on a recent series of nonsensical rejections. More recently, I stumbled upon another article on the same topic. It makes an intriguing point: the main problem with the App Store is that Apple treats software as a commodity similar to a song in your music library. It doesn’t work. Read the article if you want to find out why.

I’ve since concluded that there is yet another major problem with the App Store approval process: There is no effective and standardized way to appeal a decision.

When I call almost any company, such as my credit card company, to complain about something — and I am dissatisfied with what the person is telling me — I can ask to “speak to your supervisor.” Usually, this works; they do pass my call up the ladder. The result may not change. But at least I get to speak to someone with more authority to make a change.

I understand that the support people at the bottom rung are encouraged not to “get the supervisor” too easily — lest every minor complaint get bumped up. But at least they are permitted the discretion to decide. For my part, I try not to exercise this option unless I truly believe I have a major grievance.

Based on the developers’ stories I have read, the situation with Apple is quite different. You get the feeling that the ones at the bottom of the ladder (assuming you even get to speak to anyone at all, rather than being forced to work through email) are told by Apple: “Make your decision, based on the guidelines we give you. Then stick to it no matter what. Whatever complaint you may hear, ignore it and repeat that your decision is final. Under no circumstances indicate that there is any possible appeal (other than via the developer resubmitting the app and starting over). And certainly don’t pass off a call to any “higher up.”

If Apple adopted a more reasonable approach to dealing with dissatisfied developers, it might have avoided most, if not all, of the “horror stories” that have been circulating on the Web.

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