Tech giant Apple reportedly forced the privacy-focused email app ProtonMail to add in-app purchases to its iPhone app despite the service being free for years. Apple’s treatment of the popular privacy-centric email service is another example of Tim Cook’s company flexing its monopoly power. ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen likened Apple’s app store policies to “mafia extortion.”
The Verge reports that following a recent antitrust report from Congress which showed that major tech firms have taken part in anti-competitive practices, one developer revealed that it had been forced to monetize its largely free app.
ProtonMail, a privacy-focused email app, testified that Apple demanded in-app purchases be added to its iOS email client even though Apple had approved its app without any in-app purchases two years earlier. The developer claimed that when sending an email to customers notifying them of the change, Apple threatened to remove the app and block all updates.
In an interview with The Verge, ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen had some harsh words for Apple, stating that he and many other developers had been too scared of the massive power wielded by Apple to speak out until recently. Yen stated that although Apple changes its rules on September 11 to exempt “free apps acting as a stand-alone companion to a paid web based tool,” ProtonMail still hasn’t removed its in-app purchase due to fear of retaliation from Apple.
Yen claims that other developers feel the same way stating: “There’s a lot of fear in the space right now; people are completely petrified to say anything.” In an interview with The Verge, Yen likened Apple’s business practices to the Mafia, stating:
For the first two years we were in the App Store, that was fine, no issues there. But a common practice we see … as you start getting significant uptake in uploads and downloads, they start looking at your situation more carefully, and then as any good Mafia extortion goes, they come to shake you down for some money.
We didn’t offer a paid version in the App Store, it was free to download … it wasn’t like Epic where you had an alternative payment option, you couldn’t pay at all.
Yen claims that Apple’s demand came suddenly in 2018: “Out of the blue, one day they said you have to add in-app purchases to stay in the App Store. They stumbled upon something in the app that mentioned there were paid plans, they went to the website and saw there was a subscription you could purchase, and then turned around and demanded we add IAP.”
Yen added: “There’s nothing you can say to that. They are judge, jury, and executioner on their platform, and you can take it or leave it. You can’t get any sort of fair hearing to determine whether it’s justifiable or not justifiable, anything they say goes. We simply complied in order to save our business.”
Read more at the Verge here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org